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Mc graw hill osborne how to do everything with your e-bay business
 

Mc graw hill osborne how to do everything with your e-bay business

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Comment tout faire avec une business eBay

Comment tout faire avec une business eBay

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    Mc graw hill osborne how to do everything with your e-bay business Mc graw hill osborne how to do everything with your e-bay business Document Transcript

    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen blind folio i ® BusinessP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:40 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Blind Folio FM:ii About the Author For much of his adult life, Greg Holden has been hunting down and reselling collectibles, oddball items, and antiques of all sorts. In his younger days, he assembled an old sports car from pieces of three different sports cars. He bought and restored a century-old townhouse. Now, he hunts down fountain pens, watches, and other items online. Greg has written nearly 20 books on computers and the Internet, including Internet Auctions for Dummies and Cliff’s Notes Guide to Buying and Selling on eBay, both published by Hungry Minds. His lifelong interests in literature and writing and the history of Chicago recently culminated in the book Literary Chicago: A Book Lover’s Tour of the Windy City, published by Lake Claremont Press. He lives in Chicago in the house he restored along with his two daughters and an assortment of pets.P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:40 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen blind folio iii ® Business Greg Holden McGraw-Hill/Osborne New York Chicago San Francisco Lisbon London Madrid Mexico City Milan New Delhi San Juan Seoul Singapore Sydney TorontoP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Blind Folio FM:iv McGraw-Hill/Osborne 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. To arrange bulk purchase discounts for sales promotions, premiums, or fund-raisers, please contact McGraw-Hill/Osborne at the above address. For information on translations or book distributors outside the U.S.A., please see the International Contact Information page immediately following the index of this book. How to Do Everything with Your eBay® Business Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of publisher, with the exception that the program listings may be entered, stored, and executed in a computer system, but they may not be reproduced for publication. 1234567890 FGR FGR 019876543 ISBN 0-07-222948-9 Publisher Brandon A. Nordin Vice President & Associate Publisher Scott Rogers Acquisitions Editor Marjorie McAneny Project Editor Julie M. Smith Acquisitions Coordinator Tana Allen Technical Editor Amy Hoy Copy Editor Brian MacDonald Proofreaders Linda Medoff, Pat Mannion Indexer Valerie Perry Computer Designers Tabitha M. Cagan, Tara A. Davis Illustrators Kathleen Fay Edwards, Lyssa Wald Series Design Mickey Galicia Cover Series Design Dodie Shoemaker Cover Illustration Tom Willis This book was composed with Corel VENTURA™ Publisher. Information has been obtained by McGraw-Hill/Osborne from sources believed to be reliable. However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our sources, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, or others, McGraw-Hill/Osborne does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or the results obtained from the use of such information.P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Blind Folio FM:v Dedication To my mother and father, and to the fun we’ve had finding, restoring, and selling treasures of all sortsP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:42 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 /Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents at a Glance PART I Get Started with eBay 1 Become an eBay Auction Expert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 Start Selling with eBay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 3 Become an eBay Auctioneer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 PART II Improve Your Competitive Edge 4 Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 5 Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 6 Manage Multiple Auctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 7 Create Your Own Web Pages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 8 Create Digital Images that Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 PART III Business Practices for eBay 9 Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 10 Make Sure Your Goods Reach Their Destination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 11 Meet Other Auction Hounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 PART IV Sell Specialty Items on eBay 12 Drive Home the Deal on eBay Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269 13 Auction Off Business Goods and Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289 14 Fix Your Price on Half.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305 15 Get Top Dollar on Sothebys.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323 16 Protect Yourself and Your Customers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339 17 Fulfill Your Accounting and Tax Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363 viiP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen viii How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business PART V Keep Your eBay Business Running Smoothly 18 Keep Your eBay Business Legal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383 19 What to Do in Case of Trouble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 399 A eBay Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 417P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 /Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xix Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxi PART I Get Started with eBay CHAPTER 1 Become an eBay Auction Expert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Set Goals for Your eBay Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Jump Start a Brand-New Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Find Customers Worldwide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Give Yourself a Financial Cushion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Uncover Collectors and Specialty Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Know How eBay Auctions Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Set a Time Limit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Build Customer Trust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Provide Clear Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Write Clear Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Decide How You Want to Be Paid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Get the Hardware and Software You Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Buy the Right Computer and Monitor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Pick a Scanner or Digital Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Install Web Page and Auction Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Become a Power E-Mail User . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Follow the Eight-Step eBay Sales Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Decide What to Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Set the Price . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Provide Good Online Photos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Pile On the Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Give Good Customer Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Process Those Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Pay Your eBay Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Deliver the Goods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 ixP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen x How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business CHAPTER 2 Start Selling with eBay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Learn the Culture of eBay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 eBay’s Own Educational Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Be Encouraged by Success Stories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Beware of eBay Scams and Shams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Do Your Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Learn by Bidding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Pick Items that People Want . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Pick the Category In Which You Want to Sell . . . . . . . . . . 39 Get Registered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Pick a Good User ID . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Create a Secure Password . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Get the Computer Equipment You Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Internet Connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Computer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Monitor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Software You’ll Need . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Image Capture Device . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Handheld Device . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Protect Your Investment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 CHAPTER 3 Become an eBay Auctioneer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Decision 1: Custom-Design Your eBay Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Sell Part-Time on eBay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Become a Full-Time Auctioneer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Supplement Web Site Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Boost Brick-and-Mortar Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Decision 2: Pick the Auction that’s Right for You . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Review Your Auction Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 How to Use Reserve Auctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 When to Use Featured Auctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Decision 3: Decide How to Take and Store Auction Photos . . . . . 68 Decision 4: Figure Out Your Payment Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Should You Use an Payment Service? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Should You Accept Checks? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Should You Accept Credit Card Payments? . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Decision 5: Pick Your Shipping Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Conduct Your First Auction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Gather Your Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Do Your Product Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Pick the Right Auction Category . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Create Your Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents xi Use Listing Designer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Monitor Your Sales Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Close the Deal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 Keep Your Store Well-Stocked . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Know Your Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Know Where the Good Stuff Is . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 PART II Improve Your Competitive Edge CHAPTER 4 Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Work for the Long Term . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 Go Retail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 Go By the Numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Build Your Credibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Build Your Volume . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 Schedule Your Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 Be Community-Minded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Share Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Know Your Competition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Relax, It’s Only a Sale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Shed Your Reserve (Price, That Is) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Control When Your Auction Ends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Control Your Emotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Resell Items When You Need To . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Buy Strategically So You Can Resell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Drum Up Some Free Advertising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108 Link to Your Web Site, and Vice Versa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 CHAPTER 5 Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Create a Sales Template . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 Consider Getting Some Design Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114 Pick Standard Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 Add the Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 Fine-Tune Your Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 Do Your Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Generate Excitement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 Use Your Dictionary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 Using HTML to Dress Up Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Making Your Auction Count with a Counter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124 Use eBay Seller’s Assistant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen xii How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business CHAPTER 6 Manage Multiple Auctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Start with eBay’s Management Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Speed Things Up with Turbo Lister . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 Use eBay’s Selling Manager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139 Create a My eBay Page . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140 eBay Toolbar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 Use Seller’s Assistant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Find a Third-Party Auction Manager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144 Auction Software: Auction Wizard 2000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Auction Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148 CHAPTER 7 Create Your Own Web Pages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 MeBay: Create an About Me Page . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 Gather Your 411 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 Create Your Page . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 Edit and Spruce Up Your Page . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156 Create an eBay Store . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 Save a Few Bucks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Gain Eyeball Space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Attract Your Own Customers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Do Buy It Now One Better . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Set Up Shop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 List Your Sales Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164 Publish Your Own Web Site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 Use a Free Web Hosting Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 Host With Your Own ISP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 Use a Dedicated Web Host . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172 Find the Right Web Site Creation Software . . . . . . . . . . . . 173 Regular Maintenance and Upkeep . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 CHAPTER 8 Create Digital Images that Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Capture Those Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178 Use a Digital Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180 Purchase a Scanner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182 Set Up Your Photo Studio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 Give Your Piece a Chance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 Choose an Image Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189 Create Images that Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 Choose a Graphics Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190 Keep File Size Small . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191 Set the Resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents xiii Create Thumbnail Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193 Take Time With Your Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194 Find a Home for Your Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 eBay Picture Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195 Other Photo Hosts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 Linking to Your Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199 Upload Your Image to the Gallery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201 PART III Business Practices for eBay CHAPTER 9 Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 Customer Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206 Become an E-Mail Expert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 Keep It Simple: Checks and Money Orders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 Accept Good Old Fashioned Paper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 Payment Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214 Accept Payment with PayPal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215 Western Union BidPay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 Moneybookers.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219 Accept Credit Card Payments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219 The Conventional Way: Merchant Accounts . . . . . . . . . . . 220 Merchant Account Alternatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223 Verify Credit Card Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224 Currency Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227 CHAPTER 10 Make Sure Your Goods Reach Their Destination . . . . . . . . . . 229 Pack n’ Ship Like a Pro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230 Pack It Right . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231 Find Packing Material . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 Shipping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236 The Big Three Shippers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 How Much Will It Cost? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238 Obtaining Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 240 Reach Overseas Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242 Shipping to Canada . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Language Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244 Use One of eBay’s Global Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 246 Observe Time-Zone Etiquette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247 Observe Customs Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 Be Aware of Export Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 249P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen xiv How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business CHAPTER 11 Meet Other Auction Hounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Use Feedback to Your Advantage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252 Be Courteous, Be Specific . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 Encourage Positive Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 Observe Good E-Mail Manners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 Say Hello and Goodbye . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255 Add a Signature File . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255 Use Smileys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255 Frequent eBay’s Message Boards and Cafés . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259 Learn Newsgroup Etiquette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262 Send Emergency Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263 Give to Charitable Causes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264 PART IV Sell Specialty Items on eBay CHAPTER 12 Drive Home the Deal on eBay Motors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269 Get into Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 Who Should Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 What to Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 272 Dollars and Sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273 Determine the Vehicle’s Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273 Choose Your Sales Format . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275 Choose Marketing Add-Ons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277 Know What You’ll Be Charged . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279 Drive Onto the Auction Superhighway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280 Write Sales Descriptions That Sell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281 Arrange for a Vehicle Inspection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282 Let the Sale Begin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283 Be Up-Front About Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283 Complete the Transaction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284 What If You Run Into Problems? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284 Receive Payment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285 Transfer Title . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286 Let Buyers Decide How to Ship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287 Pay Your eBay Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288 CHAPTER 13 Auction Off Business Goods and Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289 Buy or Sell Business Supplies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291 Benefits of Buying Supplies Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 292 Benefits of Selling Off Excess Inventory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293 Unload “Lots” of Items at Once . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents xv Look for Local Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 296 Buy Government Surplus Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299 Buy and Sell Professional Services on eLance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300 Benefits for Businesses that Need Freelancers . . . . . . . . . . 301 Benefits to Freelancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304 CHAPTER 14 Fix Your Price on Half.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305 Step 1: Become a Member . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308 Provide Your Seller Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 309 Step 2: Pick a Sales Category . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311 Find the Item Code . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312 Listing Multiple Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312 Research the Competition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312 Set a Sales Price . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314 Step 3: Fill Out the Sales Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315 Specify the Condition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315 Create a Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 316 Add an Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317 Finish the Listing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317 Feedback and Customer Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318 Build a Good Seller Rating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318 Ship Your Goods Promptly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318 First-Class Service Pays Off . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321 CHAPTER 15 Get Top Dollar on Sothebys.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323 Get Acquainted with Sothebys.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325 Become a Sothebys.com Associate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327 Guaranteeing Authenticity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328 The Longer the Description, the Better . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329 High-end sales can go on eBay, too . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331 Sell on Consignment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333 Participate in Live Auctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334 Begin By Watching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334 Place Absentee Bids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 336 Get Ready for Real-Time Auction Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338 CHAPTER 16 Protect Yourself and Your Customers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339 Control Bidders and Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340 Add a Note to Your Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341 Creating a List of Approved Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341 Contact Buyers Who Make You Nervous . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen xvi How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Build Your Credibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346 Obtain a Seal of Approval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346 Use ID Verify . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350 Obtain a Personal Certificate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350 Keep Your Transactions Trouble-Free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355 Offer a Warranty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355 Don’t Sell Anything Illegal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357 Steer Clear of Shill Bidding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360 Lloyd’s of London Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 CHAPTER 17 Fulfill Your Accounting and Tax Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . 363 What’s Different About Being Self-Employed? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364 Perform the Basic Accounting Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365 Cash-Basis versus Accrual-Basis Accounting . . . . . . . . . . 366 Practice Good Record-Keeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367 What About Sales Tax? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 371 Deduce Your Business Deductions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372 Computer Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372 Your Home Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372 Internet Connections and Other Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373 Find Accounting Help Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373 Use Accounting Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375 Pick the Package That’s Best for You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 375 Keep Your Books Online . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 377 How Long Should You Keep Your Records? . . . . . . . . . . . 380 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380 PART V Keep Your eBay Business Running Smoothly CHAPTER 18 Keep Your eBay Business Legal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383 Copyright and Trademark Concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384 Don’t Do a Copy-Wrong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 385 Avoid Trademark Infringement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 388 Adding Digital Watermarks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 389 Acceptable Use Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390 Protect Your Own Trade Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390 Decide on a Legal Form for Your Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393 Should You Incorporate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393 Sole Proprietorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394 Partnership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395 Licensing and Trade Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395 Pay Your License Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395 Maintain Your Own and Your Buyers’ Privacy . . . . . . . . . . 397 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Contents xvii CHAPTER 19 What to Do in Case of Trouble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 399 If the Transaction Falls Through . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 Deadbeat Bidders/Buyers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401 Bounced Checks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404 Problems with the Seller (Yes, I Mean You) . . . . . . . . . . . . 405 If Problems Occur After You Ship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 407 The Buyer Claims Damage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408 The Buyer Just Isn’t Satisfied . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409 If Problems Occur During the Sale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409 How to Resolve a Dispute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 Where to Find It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411 APPENDIX A eBay Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413 Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 417P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 /Front MatterComposite Default screen Acknowledgments Whether you are writing books for a living or selling on eBay either part- time or full-time, much of your work seems to be done alone. But the truth is that you’re never really alone. There are plenty of people sitting at their computers who are depending on you, who are waiting for you, who are rooting for you to be a success. Any successful sale on eBay depends on help and cooperation from lots of people, from the individual who provided you with the item to the sell to the companion who helped you carry it home to the shippers who made sure it reached its destination. Trust and cooperation make online auctions work. I’ve often been struck by the fact that the most successful auction sellers are also the most generous with their time and experience. They have taught me that the more helpful you are, the more successful you’ll be in return. In the same way, writing a book about selling on eBay depends a community of individuals you might never meet face to face. First, I want to thank the eBay sellers who took the time to talk to me either on the phone or by e-mail and share their knowledge. Thanks go to Chad Gibbons, Jo Stavig, Buddhachick, Bob Kopczynski, Don Colclough, Jon and Steve Brothers, decoray, Shiela Schneider, and Andy Noise. I also want to acknowledge my own colleagues who helped me with research and editing, and who are important members of my own professional community: Ann Lindner, Madonna Gauding, and Pam Parrish. I have been impressed with the enthusiasm and encouragement I have received from all the folks at Osborne-McGraw Hill, starting with Margie McAneny, who got the ball rolling (and kept it rolling smoothly); Julie Smith, who served as project editor; technical editor Amy Hoy; copyeditor Brian MacDonald; and publicity manager Bettina Faltermeier. xixP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen xx How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Thanks also to my agent Neil Salkind and everyone at Studio B Productions. Last but not least, thanks to my mother and father, who instilled the love of giving new life to someone elses castoffs-a practice that carries over perfectly to the new electronic flea market, eBay. Bargain hunting is an art Im now passing down to my two daughters, Zosia and Lucy, as their sharp eyes are becoming ever more skilled at finding just what theyre looking for at thrift shops and garage sales. Sharing so many adventures with them puts fun in my life, especially when they allow me to share their ever-widening circle of loving friends and pets.P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 /Front MatterComposite Default screen Introduction Just a few years ago, it seemed like everyone (including yours truly) was describing the Web as the new Wild, Wild, West for businesspeople—a place where they could strike out on their own, stake a claim, open up their own storefront, and start to do business for the first time. Well, the bloom is off the rose, as far as e-commerce on the Web is concerned, but eBay remains a thriving destination for anyone who wants to make a few extra bucks or even start a new career as an auction seller. eBay has quickly become a part of everyday life rather than a novelty enjoyed by a few. Now that eBay has been around for several years, it has become more reliable and easier to use. It has also inherited both the good and bad aspects of the free market—the people who are trustworthy and community minded, as well as those who don’t follow through with transactions and actively try to swindle other people. Luckily, the first group of eBay users far outnumbers the second. eBay’s network of trust still makes it great place to realize the highest possible profits on online sales and start up your own online business. It’s also giving a new lease on life to antique dealers and small business owners who have suddenly found a worldwide market of eager bidders rather than local people who drove or walked to their stores. This book is for especially for people who want to sell regularly on eBay— those who want to run a business selling on eBay. “Running an eBay business” can mean a variety of things. It might mean you sell full-time on eBay, as some experienced and successful sellers do. It might mean you make small but regular part-time income selling after work or on the weekends. Or it might mean you sell a handful of items on eBay each month. This book assumes, though, that you want to sell regularly on eBay, and that you want to be a successful seller. It assumes that you’re already familiar with eBay, at least as a buyer. Part I, “Get Started With eBay” starts at the beginning—deciding what you want to sell, how you want to sell it, and who you want to sell it to. You also get suggestions for how to do the kind of strategic buying that will keep your business flowing smoothly rather than having fits and starts simply because you’ve run out of merchandise to sell. xxiP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen xxii How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Part II, “Improve Your Competitive Edge,” seeks to take you beyond being a casual eBay seller who completes transactions once in a while, to someone who sets up a system for selling on a regular basis. In Chapter 5, You learn the importance of building an initial positive feedback rating to build your credibility as a seller. You learn how to make your auctions stand out from the crowd and build goodwill with potential bidders by providing complete, honest descriptions of your sales merchandise. In Chapter 6, you learn how auction management software and online services can streamline the process of getting sales online and storing images, and provide you with records that are sure to come in handy at tax time. In Chapter 7, you learn about different options for promoting your eBay sales through creating Web pages, such as eBay’s About Me page and eBay Stores, as well as your own Web site. In Chapter 8, you explore the ins and outs of one of the most important ways to attract bids: providing good images of your merchandise. Part III, “Business Practices for eBay Auctioneers,” takes a look at the “back end,” indispensable business operations that can take your eBay sales business to a new level. Chapter 9 focuses on different ways to serve your customers, including answering questions, sending out e-mail responses promptly, and accepting payments. Chapter 10 focuses on two essential operations that you might overlook otherwise— packing your merchandise and shipping them out safely. Chapter 11 explores ways to be a participating member of the eBay community, by leaving feedback, using e-mail effectively, and making use of eBay’s extensive selection of discussion forums. Part IV, “Sell Specialty Items on eBay,” examines the wide variety of auction venues that make up eBay’s auction world, and that you might overlook in your zeal to get conventional auction sales online. These chapters examine how to sell vehicles ranging from motorcycles to airplanes and yachts on eBay Motors; how to trade business goods and services; how to sell books and other fixed-price items on Half.com; and how to use the high-end, traditional auction house that’s affiliated with eBay, Sothebys.com. Part V, “Keep your eBay Business Running Smoothly,” covers strategies for streamlining your eBay business once you’ve gotten it off the ground. In Chapter 16, you learn how to protect yourself and your customers’ security. In Chapter 17, you get advice on how to fulfill your accounting and tax requirements. In Chapter 18, you are introduced to legal considerations that can keep you from getting in trouble. In Chapter 19, you learn how to deal with the common sorts of difficulties that eBay sellers occasionally confront. Some of these are common-sense approaches, while others take advantage of various problem-solving mechanisms that eBay has put in place for individuals just like you.P:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Front MatterComposite Default screen Introduction xxiii I didn’t write this book with the intention that you would read it from beginning to end like a story. Like the Web itself, you should be able to skip around from chapter to chapter to find the information you need to know immediately. Plus, you’ll find special elements to help you get the most out of the book: ■ How to... These special boxes explain, in a nutshell, how to accomplish key tasks. Read them to discover key points covered in each chapter. ■ Notes These provide information that’s often very important to gain understanding of a particular topic. ■ Tips These tell you how to do something smarter or faster. ■ Cautions These point out potential pitfalls that you need to steer around so you can keep operating smoothly. ■ Sidebars Here I address topics that are related to the subject at hand and that illuminate it in a new way. Within the text, you also find words in special formatting. New terms are in italics, while specific commands you need to choose or type yourself are in boldface. Along the way, you’ll read comments and tips by individuals who sell on eBay on a daily basis, and who are generous enough to share their expertise with you. The information isn’t all just coming from me, but I’ve compiled it with the help of these online experts. Don’t get upset if a Web page or a piece of software isn’t exactly where it’s described in the book. eBay’s site changes all the time, as does the rest of the Web. That’s part of the fun of doing business online. If a web page isn’t where the book says it should be, try entering only site name (such as www.ebay.com) or use a search engine to search for the topic you’re looking for. I wish you happy selling on eBay. Relax, have fun, and enjoy being an online merchant; tell me your own experiences and whether this book has helped you by dropping me a line at greg@gregholden.comP:010CompHowTo8948-9fm.vpMonday, May 12, 2003 12:14:45 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen blind folio 3 Become an eBay Chapter 1 Auction ExpertP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:17 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 4 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Establish your goals for selling on eBay ■ Decide whether to be a full- or part-time eBay seller ■ Get the big picture of how eBay works ■ Understand your hardware and software requirements ■ Follow the eight steps to selling on eBay ■ Calculate and pay your eBay sales fees The phrase “working at home” used to be a contradiction in terms. Way back in the twentieth century, when you worked at home, you wore different clothing than you did in the office. You had more relaxed mannerisms and habits. But these two scenarios have changed. Offices have casual dress days, and working at home means much more padding around the kitchen in your bathrobe and slippers and talking on the phone. Working at home can mean that you run a full- or part-time business in which you conduct transactions with customers from around the world, thanks to the Internet. One of the most exciting and potentially lucrative ways to work from home is to sell merchandise online with the biggest and most successful online auction site, eBay. eBay is known as a place where you can sell or buy at auction: you put an item up for sale by publishing a description and (usually) a photo of it on eBay’s Web site. Prospective buyers find your item for sale and submit bids by filling out a form right on the auction page. The person who has the highest bid when the auction ends is the winner. In addition, eBay allows you to sell items for a fixed price, and has special areas for selling vehicles, business services, and high-end antiques, each of which is described in this book. Whether you want to sell on eBay full- or part-time depends on your needs and the amount of time you have available. If you’ve been laid off and need some extra income to fill up the time between jobs, you have lots of time to devote. If you already have a full-time job and are trying to make some extra money, you’re limited to off-hours such as evenings and weekends. An eBay business is flexible enough to handle each of these situations. First, you need to decide what you want to accomplish.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:17 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 5 Set Goals for Your eBay Business 1 The first step in starting up any business, whether it’s on eBay, on your own Web site, or in the offline, brick-and-mortar world, is to set your goals and objectives and then develop strategies for attaining them. In the traditional business world, it’s called coming up with a business plan. A business plan requires you to ask yourself some basic questions of the sort that can apply to your eBay business, too: ■ Why do you want to sell on eBay? ■ What do you want to sell? ■ Are there enough buyers for what you want to sell? ■ How do you define “success”? The first question is deceptively simple. It forces you to focus on your goals for your eBay business. Do you want to sell full-time? Do you want to find new customers for a sales business that you already operate, either on the Web or through a storefront? Do you need to expand an e-commerce business that’s flagging? Or do you just want to make some extra money each month to help with expenses? The second question is also important: Since you’re going to be spending many hours per week on your business, you need to make sure you’re working with merchandise you know and hopefully enjoy buying and selling. The third question involves market research: make sure there aren’t a thousand people already selling what you want to sell on eBay. If the market is already flooded, you’ll have a hard time breaking in. Switching merchandise or sales categories can help you find more bidders (see “Decide What to Sell” later in this chapter). The final question is essential: envision how you want your eBay business to function ideally once it’s up and running. What will make you happy—being able to leave the office and work at home? Being able to help your spouse out with some extra money while taking care of the kids? Or just being able to pay the bills at the end of the month? Defining success will help you design your business and encourage you to feel satisfied when you reach your goals, too. Jump Start a Brand-New Business Selling on eBay is a terrific way to start up your first business. That’s because eBay provides you with a well-established framework in which to operate. There are rules that sellers and buyers alike have to follow, and an elaborate system of feedback that helps keep people honest. Once you get used to buying and sellingP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:17 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 6 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business on eBay, the move to running an online business is not that dramatic. It’s probably easiest to start out selling a limited number of items each month before you consider trying to handle the 50, 100, or even 200 items a week that some busy sellers put online. Selling on eBay Part-Time You don’t have to sell on eBay as your full-time “day job” in order to generate a steady income. Far from it: one of the busiest sellers I know, Bob Kopczynski (eBay User ID: maxwellstreetmarket) has a full-time job. His wife and various relatives and neighbors help him put 20 to 30 items up for sale each day. Chad Gibbons (eBay User ID: boomer1967) works on eBay about ten hours a week. Despite ongoing health problems, he manages to put 100 to 200 sales online each week for himself and several individuals whose items he sells on consignment. Selling on eBay Full-Time Few things are as rewarding—and as exhausting—as working on your own full-time from home. I know whereof I speak. I worked in an office for many years and dreamed of being able to stay at home and raise my children while writing. When I was able to make the move to being a full-time freelancer, that’s when the hard work really began. The moment you make the decision to support yourself full-time, you’ve got to be prepared for long hours. It’s the same with selling on eBay. When it becomes a full-time business, you’ve got to develop a schedule; the things that were simply an enjoyable hobby before, like scouring garage sales and flea markets, become work. You might develop a schedule like the one in Table 1-1. (It starts on Thursday because that’s when most garage and estate sales start.) At the same time, it’s hardly all work and no play. You’ve also got to be prepared for freedom—for being able to run your own schedule, work when you want, and spend time with your family or friends when you want. You can sleep until 10 A.M. and work from 1 P.M. to 9 P.M. if you want. You can accompany your kids on field trips or hit the golf course in the morning and work on getting your sales online in the afternoon. Find Customers Worldwide A number of the sellers I interviewed while writing this book used to operate, or still operate, storefronts where they sell antiques or other merchandise. eBay has revolutionized life for such sellers. On one hand, they had to start selling onlineP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:17 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 7 Day of the Week Morning Tasks Afternoon/Evening Tasks 1 Thursday Estate sales Unpack, schedule more sales for weekend; post office at 3 P.M. Friday Estate sales Unpack, research items, prepare descriptions Saturday Flea market Personal time Sunday Personal time Check sales that are ending today; send out end-of-sale notifications Monday Send out more Take photos for new sales; ship and pack; post office end-of-sale e-mails at 3 P.M. Tuesday Take photos, prepare Get sales online; ship and pack last week’s sales; descriptions post office at 3 P.M. Wednesday Get more sales online Look through classifieds and find estate sales; answer e-mail inquiries; ship and pack last week’s sales; post office at 3 P.M. TABLE 1-1 Sample Schedule for Full-Time eBay Sellers just to keep up with the competition. On the other hand, once they did start to sell at auction, they found a new and dramatically wider audience for what they have to sell. Many auction enthusiasts are savvy shoppers who need to save money on things they purchase either for personal or business use, and the time spent searching for them in conventional sales outlets. They’re actively seeking rare items to add to their collections. They don’t have time to schlep around the country for months or years visiting antique stores, flea markets, and sales to find them. They’re happy to find something they want on eBay and have the chance to obtain it from the comfort of their own homes. If you’re a seller, your adrenaline starts to rush when you anticipate having two bidders who will offer you far more than you ever expected for what you have to sell. Give Yourself a Financial Cushion One reason for selling on eBay is to get a source of extra income that you can put aside for a rainy day. Some eBay sellers use their auction revenue for their children’s tuition. Others use it for vacations. The fact is, once you have a system set up that enables you to sell, you can adjust how active you are based on your needs. You’re not required to sell the same number of items every week. I know at least one eBayP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:17 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 8 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business seller who sold full-time for several years, then decided to take a full-time office job. She still sells on eBay, but not nearly as often as she did before. The important thing is that it’s nice to have that extra income to call on when you need it. Uncover Collectors and Specialty Buyers One seller I interviewed, Don Colclaugh (eBay User ID: mrmodern) found an artificial leg at an estate sale. He had no idea whether anyone would want such a thing on eBay, but he put it online anyway. He ended up selling it for more than $100. eBay attracts collectors from all walks of life, many of whom are passionate about what they want and will pay anything to get it, provided you have the right item. eBay’s Community Chatter newsletter reports about the 1941 beer can that sold for $19,000 (see Figure 1-1), and the fishing lure (Item number 2708468802; search for it on eBay’s Completed Auctions) that sold for an astonishing $31,857.50. FIGURE 1-1 This beer can’s seller never dreamed someone would bid $19,000 for it.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:18 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 9 eBay Bestsellers 1 eBay Gave Him a “Reason to Get Up in the Morning” It’s often said that eBay has the potential to change your life. I’ve met many sellers whose careers have been changed by eBay. But I don’t think I’ve met anyone to whom eBay is more important than Chad Gibbons. Chad, 25, lives in Windsor, Ontario, and goes by the User ID boomer1967 on eBay. Like many young men, he has collected sports cards since childhood. He first started using eBay in 1999, in fact, to trade cards. “I started selling cards because there were many that I didn’t really want, so I sold them off to buy more.” In 1999, Chad was diagnosed with kidney failure. He had to take a medical leave from his regular job. The three years while he was waiting for a kidney transplant were difficult. “When I was sick for those three years eBay helped me by making me get up in the morning. I had to get up: I had to mail stuff out and do e-mails and get next week’s auctions ready to go, then to the bank to cash checks. All those things that needed to be done were keeping me preoccupied and not thinking about how sick I was.” To supplement his income, Chad started selling on consignment for other people. He now has up to four consignment customers, and he conducts as many as 100 to 300 auctions per week using eBay’s Turbo Lister software, which is described in Chapter 6. Amazingly, he estimates that he is able to conduct that many auctions while only spending ten hours a week on eBay-related activities. “I have met lots of people and made a few friends from eBay. The people on eBay are the best people imaginable.” In August, 2002, Chad received a kidney transplant. Everything went smoothly, except that being in the hospital for two weeks made it difficult for him to keep up with his mailings and auctions. Just a few months out of the hospital, Chad had his best sales month to date, selling 477 out of 530 items and grossing $2,656. He’s now sold about 5,000 items and has been highlighted as one of eBay’s Power Sellers of the Month. Chad suggests that when you are planning your own eBay business, sell items about which you know something. Also sell items for which there is a proven demand on eBay. “Always be there for the customer to answer questions and concerns.”P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:18 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 10 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Know How eBay Auctions Work eBay’s auction site is complex, and has its own tricks and quirks. On top of that, many of the individuals who buy and sell regularly on eBay have been doing so for years and are well acquainted with how the system works. Don’t start placing items up for sale without knowing what’s involved first. Be sure you read eBay’s User Agreement (http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/user-agreement.html) so you know what you can and can’t do. The following sections provide you with some more rules of thumb. Set a Time Limit Time plays an important role in eBay sales. First of all, eBay is located in California, so the advertised time when auctions begin and end is in Pacific Standard Time. eBay calls this “eBay Time,” and you can check the current eBay time at http:// cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?TimeShow (see Figure 1-2). FIGURE 1-2 eBay time is an important consideration when scheduling auctions.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:18 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 11 In most cases, you get auction descriptions online by filling out the Sell Your Item form (see Figure 1-3). You access this form by clicking Sell in the 1 eBay navigation toolbar that appears on virtually all eBay pages. Page 3 of the Sell Your Item form allows you to schedule your auction and select how long the sale will last. As you can see from Figure 1-3, auctions can begin at one of two times: ■ On the exact moment they appear online, which is the moment the auction description is posted on one of eBay’s servers. ■ On a time you schedule, if you are willing to pay 10 cents to schedule this auction. The reason why you need to pay attention to when a sale starts is because the starting time controls the ending time. For instance, if you start an auction at 6:05 P.M. on a Thursday and you specify that the auction should last three days, the auction will end at 6:05 P.M. the following Sunday. Most sellers believe that it’s best to have FIGURE 1-3 The Sell Your Item form is the basic way to get sales descriptions and photos online.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:18 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 12 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business sales end on a weekend, when the largest number of bidders has time to shop and bid online. Page 3 of the Sell Your Item form asks you to choose the length of your auction. You have the following options: ■ Three-day Three-day auctions work best for things that bidders are wild about because they’re the newest got-to-have-’em item. Three-day sales also work well around holiday time when shoppers are in a hurry to have items shipped to them. ■ Five-day Five day auctions are also useful at holiday times when people are in too much of a hurry to buy at a seven-day or ten-day auction. They might also work well over holiday weekends such as Labor Day or Memorial Day. The only real advantage to a five-day auction is that it gives you a little more time to gather bids than the three-day variety. ■ Seven-day Seven-day auctions are the “classic” and most popular variety on eBay. By letting a sale go on for seven rather than three or five days, you give yourself time to get more bids and hopefully a higher price. Seven days gives buyers the opportunity to track a sale during the week and then place their final bids over the weekend, if you schedule it to end then. ■ Ten-day Sometimes, one weekend is not enough for a sale. Many eBay sellers advocate the ten-day sales period even though it does incur an extra ten-cent fee. ■ Buy It Now Whenever you list an item for sale, you are given the option of specifying a fixed price for it. Anyone who wants to pay that fixed price can buy the item at any time, no matter what the length of the sale is supposed to be. Rather than letting the market determine how high the price should go, you effectively put a limit on your profits by specifying a Buy It Now price. On the other hand, you can use a Buy It Now price to encourage bidders to buy an item immediately at a profit to you. Buy It Now prices and auction bids don’t mix, so there’s no chance that someone will “outbid” your Buy It Now price. On a reserve price auction, the Buy It Now price disappears as soon as the first bid is placed that meets your reserve. On an auction without a reserve price, the Buy It Now price disappears when someone places the first bid.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:19 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 13 If you sell multiple items, you can streamline your work significantly with special auction software and online auction services, some of which enable 1 you to schedule sales so they all go online at specified times. See Chapter 6 for more. Build Customer Trust In any kind of e-commerce, the seller needs to build trust and confidence in buyers who never meet them in person. The one-on-one contact that the Internet provides can do a lot toward building such confidence: quick e-mail responses, speedy shipping, and honest descriptions all encourage buyers to check out your sales in future and keep bidding. When it comes to encouraging bids initially, the single best way you can develop trust is to develop a good feedback rating. That can only be done over time, by making a commitment to follow through quickly and honestly on all of your transactions, whether you are purchasing or selling. Any buyer can check your feedback rating by clicking on the feedback number that eBay lists next to your name. Your eBay ID card appears. Your goal is to have the sort of feedback as boomer1967, who is profiled earlier in this chapter.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:19 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 14 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business When it comes to gaining good feedback through selling, the two most important things you can do are things you might overlook at first: packing your merchandise carefully and shipping it out quickly. Because these two tasks are so important, I’ve devoted extra attention to them in Chapter 10. Provide Clear Images The online equivalent of placing your auction merchandise on a table so prospective customers can preview it before bidding is to open a digital version of the image in your Web browser window. The clarity of the image you see depends on the clarity of your computer monitor and the quality of your computer’s video card. (I discuss these and other hardware requirements for participating in Internet auctions in Chapter 2.) Because the image is broken down into tiny segments of digital information called pixels, and the visual details have been compressed into special graphics formats used on the Web in order to get them online, you don’t get a perfect representation of the image when you see it online. If you can provide more than one image, so much the better. There’s really no excuse not to present multiple views of an item, since digital cameras make photography so easy. decoray, an eBay seller profiled in Chapter 10, took five separate images of the head vase shown in Figure 1-4. Each image was sharp and well-lit and taken from a slightly different angle. The last image was of the label at the bottom of the vase. Write Clear Descriptions No matter how clear the images are, there’s no substitute for your own knowledge, much of which is provided by or augmented by research. Part of the fun of creating auction listings, in my opinion, is taking the time to find out something about what you want to sell—how old it is, how rare it is, and what makes it special. You can do your research at one of the many Web sites that describe antiques and collectibles, for instance. One of the best and easiest places to do research, though, is on eBay itself. Just go to the Search page (http://pages.ebay.com/search/items/search_adv.html), check the box next to Completed Items only, enter your search terms, and click the Search button (see Figure 1-5). You can search through past auctions for similar items. The main thing about auction descriptions is that they need to be complete and honest about any flaws or shortcomings in what you’re selling. You don’t want to get in a dispute with a buyer about a chip or crack in something that the buyerP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:19 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 15 1 FIGURE 1-4 eBay sales depend on good descriptions and digital images displayed online, supplemented by research. doesn’t discover until the package is unwrapped. Be honest up front, and you’ll avoid such surprises while building trust among your customers. (Besides, if a buyer really wants what you have to sell, chances are a few minor flaws won’t discourage them from bidding anyway.) Read what other auction sellers have said about their items. You might be able to benefit from their research. Many sellers reuse parts of other sellers’ descriptions in their own auction listings. Is it a violation of copyright? It may be, technically, but sellers don’t seem to mind because so many of them copy or rewrite one another’s descriptions.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 16 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 1-5 Research past sales on eBay to find out more about the items you want to sell. Decide How You Want to Be Paid Watching bids come in on your item, exchanging chatty messages with other sellers in the eBay Café or the other eBay message boards, and researching your sales items can be so much fun that you forget about the real purpose of why you’re starting an eBay business. Why, you’re in this to make money, of course. Remember? The simplest and most effective way to accept payments from your customers is through credit cards. Your high bidder or buyer (for a Buy It Now item) submits a credit card number, either to you or to a payment service, the funds are transferred in a matter of minutes, and you can ship the item out immediately. When it comes to accepting credit cards, you have two general options. Most eBay sellers sign up for an account with eBay’s own payment service, PayPal. PayPal streamlines the process of accepting credit card payments: Buyers tell PayPal to debit their credit card accounts, and PayPal receives the payments, subtracts its transaction fees, and forwards the money on to you. If you accept PayPal transactions, you get to add a standard logo to your auction listings, like the one shown in the following image.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 17 1 On the other hand, some sellers don’t like PayPal because of the fees that it charges. They limit their payment options to accepting checks or money orders from their customers. This process takes longer because you depend on the mail to get you the money. If a personal check is involved, you’re safest if you delay shipping until the check actually clears the bank. Otherwise, if you’re planning to be in business for the long haul, you can establish a credit card merchant account, either with your own bank or with a company that specializes in providing such accounts. Get the Hardware and Software You Need Before you can step up to the auction block, you need to connect to the Internet, and in order to do that, you need some basic computer hardware and software. Buying and selling through auctions, like other types of electronic commerce, don’t require a super-fast connection to the Internet. Nor do you have to spend thousands for a computer with the latest multimedia bells and whistles. A detailed description of hardware and software you do need is presented in Chapter 2, but here is an overview of the kinds of things you need to get started. Buy the Right Computer and Monitor The good news is that buying and selling on eBay don’t require much computing overhead. In other words, if you can get on the Internet and surf Web sites, and ifP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 18 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business you have enough memory to run an image editing program as well, you should be able to sell successfully on eBay. However, the speed and quality of your computer, monitor, and other hardware can affect your auction experience. Hard disk storage space isn’t an issue for most new computers, which come with hard disk drives that store one or more gigabytes (GB) of data. (A gigabyte is a thousand megabytes (MB).) Any hard disk capable of storing a gigabyte or more should be fine for your needs. (Many new computers come with hard disks of 10, 20, or more gigabytes these days.) If you’re buying a used computer, beware: Don’t come home with less than a gigabyte of storage space, or you’ll run out of room before you know it. Going online, using a Web browser, and shopping for auction treasures doesn’t require huge amounts of memory, but if you plan to put up goodies for sale, you need some additional software, and each program requires RAM. For example, you may want to do one of the following (all of which require RAM): ■ Create a Web page A Web page or Web site can help advertise you or your business, if you have one (see Chapter 9). ■ Capture digital images You’re likely to get more bids if you provide a clear computerized image of your items by scanning them or using a digital camera (see Chapter 8). Saving the images on your hard disk can quickly consume storage space unless you delete the image files as soon as the sale ends. Running a good image editing program like Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements does require a lot of RAM, however. The cost of RAM keeps going down, so you should load your computer with as much as you can in order to streamline the process of creating auction listings, not to mention listening to Internet radio, downloading video clips, and the many other multimedia events that increasingly popular parts of the online user experience. Pick a Scanner or Digital Camera Hardware requirements for auction sellers are a bit more extensive than those for buyers. You need a way to take images of the merchandise you want to sell and capture those images as digitized computer files. Including a clear, sharp image on your Web site greatly increases your chances of selling your product or service. You have several choices for digitizing: ■ Taking photos with a digital camera and saving the image files on your computer.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 19 ■ Taking photos with a conventional camera and then scanning them into your computer. 1 ■ Taking conventional prints or slides and having a photo lab send them back to you on CD-ROM or posting them online so you can copy or reuse them. After you have an image in the form of a computer document, you can transfer it to a Web site to let potential buyers take a look (see Chapter 8). Install Web Page and Auction Software For the most part, the software you use to conduct transactions on eBay is the same as the software you use to view sales, bid on items, surf Web sites, and exchange e-mail with others. You don’t need special software to get your sales online, to format auction listings or Web pages that describe you or your business, or edit photos—but they can help, especially when your sales activity increases. In addition, software that enables you to keep track of your financial activity so you can prepare your taxes more efficiently, apply for loans or merchant accounts, or perform other tasks can make your business life much easier as well. You’ll find out about Web page software in Chapter 7, digital image editors in Chapter 8, auction listing software in Chapter 6, and accounting programs in Chapter 17. Become a Power E-Mail User Aside from the Web browser that you use to create auction listings, e-mail is probably the single most important tool you have as a seller. E-mail is what you use to answer questions, notify bidders that they have won, tell bidders that their item has shipped, and remind buyers when they are slow to follow through on their commitments. When you sell at auction, it’s important to use all aspects of e-mail fully. These include: ■ Signature files A signature file is a bit of text that you can append automatically to each of your outgoing e-mails. Such a file tells others your User ID, the name of your Web site if you have one, and any other contact information you want to provide. It’s a great way to get free marketing for your auction business. ■ Attachments Sometimes prospective bidders who are particularly interested in an item will ask you for more information and possibly more detailed photos. Although you should post such additional images on the auction listing itself, you might also want to attach them to e-mails you send to interested buyers.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 20 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Checking your e-mail Get an e-mail account that you can access from the Web; also consider getting a wireless device that you can use to check your e-mail, such as a Web-enabled cell phone or a handheld device, so you can get those messages as soon as they arrive. ■ Vacation notices If you’re going to be out of town, make sure your sales don’t end while you are gone. If you are going to be away, be sure to put a vacation notice on each of your auction listings that tells bidders when you’ll be back. For more about using e-mail, see Chapter 11. Follow the Eight-Step eBay Sales Plan As long as you’re at least 18 years old, you can be a student, the CEO of eBay (yes, Meg Whitman is reported to have sold her college textbooks on Half.com), or a trash collector—you can still sell on eBay. You don’t need any experience in business. You just need to follow the rules, gather good feedback by being honest and responsive, and sell items that people want—the kinds of things that merchants have depended on throughout the ages. First, you need to start by registering as an auction seller. eBay makes you register as a seller even if you are already a registered eBay buyer. You can use the same username and password; the main purpose is to put your credit card on file so eBay can charge it if necessary. (See Chapter 2 for more.) The following steps give you a miniature version of the process described in detail in subsequent chapters so you can begin the process of selling on eBay. Decide What to Sell Sometimes, it seems like you can sell anything on eBay. Some people certainly try to sell oddball, weird, tasteless, or even illegal materials. eBay quickly removes the most offensive things. (See Chapter 8 for descriptions of items that eBay considers offensive or illegal.) But if you are trying, as this book assumes, to develop an ongoing eBay sales effort, you need to identify materials that eBay customers are actually going to bid on and buy on a consistent basis. Based on what I’ve learned and been told by longtime sellers, you need to choose items that: ■ You like to sell Choose things that you know and love, and that you know well enough that you can come up with reasonable reserve and Buy It NowP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 21 prices. You’ll be working with these items for years at a time; don’t sell clothing if you are really interested in sports equipment and collectibles, 1 for instance. ■ People actually want Shop around on eBay and see which items get bids and which don’t. Don’t waste your time buying, and then reselling, merchandise that just isn’t desirable to begin with. ■ Are easy to ship Keep in mind that you’ll not only be buying merchandise and hauling it home, but that you’ll need to photograph it, pack it up, and probably haul it to a shipper (unless you pay extra for pickup; see Chapter 10). ■ You have room to store Sellers who deal on eBay on a regular basis soon need to buy merchandise on a regular basis, too. The question of where and how to store that stuff can become a problem. Sellers have given up their basements, garages, and eventually rented warehouse space just to store the merchandise they’re planning to sell in the future. In my experience, the items that sell best on eBay are ones that are offbeat and that appeal to specialists or collectors. Items also are more likely to sell if you include more than one good-quality photo and if you write honest descriptions. Choose One or More Categories What you sell also involves decisions about where to sell—which one of eBay’s hundreds of auction categories is right for your particular item. If you decide to specialize in a particular type of item, you might find that certain categories become places that you frequent on a regular basis. Getting to know the category in which you’re going to deal is a good idea—get to know who the big players are in a category, and study what they sell and how they describe what they have. Don’t try to copy what they do—rather, pick items that are slightly different and put your own personal spin on your descriptions so you can attract your own customers. Enlist the Help of Friends and Relatives What to sell, and how many items to sell, also depends on whether you are going to do the work yourself or whether you’re going to develop a team of assistants. Selling on eBay is ideal for two or more people—two spouses, two domestic partners, two friends, or two relatives. You’re sure to have some nieces, nephews, or cousins around who can help you with packing and shipping—or photographing or doing other computer work with which you’re uncomfortable.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 22 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Collecting and then selling dolls, action figures, cards, or other goodies can be a great family activity. Your kids can keep you company and help you shop for the most desirable collectibles and keep you informed about the latest trends. They can help look up addresses, affix labels, and relieve some of the burden of shipping things out. Set the Price You don’t always need to worry about setting a price at all on eBay. It depends on how you decide to sell. I go into more detail on starting bids and reserve prices in Chapter 3, but here’s a quick rundown of the kinds of prices you might need to consider: ■ Starting Bid This is the price at which bidding starts. ■ Reserve Price This is the lowest price at which you will commit to sell something. If bids don’t reach the reserve price, you don’t have to sell. Usually, the reserve price is secret, but some sellers do reveal the reserve price of an item right in its description. ■ Buy It Now Price If you want to sell something at a fixed price, you can specify it, either in addition to placing the item at auction, or as an alternative to an auction. ■ eBay Stores price If you have enough positive feedback, you can set up an eBay store: a page where you list items on eBay for a reduced, fixed price for 30 days. It’s a great place to unload items that didn’t sell the first time or to find another way to sell stock from your store if you have one (see Figure 1-6). Find out more at http://www.stores.ebay.com. Setting a minimum bid as the least amount you are willing to accept often discourages buyers who need to feel they are getting a bargain for something. Many such sales end with no one placing any bids. Many auction sellers don’t worry about reserve prices at all. They simply put a starting bid of $1 or so on an item and let the marketplace determine the price. The risk, of course, if that you might lose money on what you sell without a reserve— you could conceivably pay $10 for a lamp and sell it on eBay for a high bid of $6 if you don’t put a reserve of, say, $15 on the item. On the other hand, items that are advertised as having no reserve price do tend to attract more attention than those with a reserve, because bidders are attracted by the certainty that the item will sellP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 23 1 FIGURE 1-6 You can sell merchandise at a fixed price if you are qualified to establish an eBay Store. and the possibility that it will sell at a bargain price. If the seller loses a few dollars on one particular item, he or she will probably make it up on others that are sold without reserve and that attract lots of bids. The pricing strategy you choose is up to you, and it doesn’t have to be applied to every item you sell, either. You can put a set of items up for auction with no reserve and see how they sell, while putting others up for sale with a reserve. Provide Good Online Photos As much as I would like to think that words are the most persuasive medium around, I have to admit that photos are probably the most important sales feature you can include with your merchandise. Items that are put online without anyP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 24 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business photos just aren’t going to get as many bids as they could. There’s no excuse not to include photos, either, because the range of options for capturing digital images is growing all the time. Digital cameras and scanners are growing more affordable, too. Don’t be stingy with creating and posting photos of your sales items. Often, bidders will ask you for more photos if you haven’t included enough to begin with. You’ll get to know how many you should include. There’s no rule about how many photos you should include of a particular object; as a general rule, however, two to six photos taken from different angles is a good range. Often, wristwatches need multiple photos in order to show all the different features (see Figure 1-7). See Chapter 8 for more about capturing digital images of your sales items and putting them online. Pile On the Information If you run a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll probably be surprised by the important role descriptions play in making sales on eBay. After all, in a store, you place your items in the window or on a shelf and put a tag on them. Perhaps the tag identifies the item and provides some basic information about it, perhaps not. FIGURE 1-7 Include multiple images of an item, especially if it is detailed or intricate.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 25 On the Internet, shoppers decide whether or not to buy something based in large measure on how much information you provide about it. Yes, the price matters, 1 and yes, the experience and level of trust the seller inspires is also important. But when several similar items are available on eBay, many placed up for auction by reputable sellers, the ones with more information are more likely to get the most bids. A good description is: ■ Concise Good descriptions don’t have to be long. They describe sizes, dates, colors, and other characteristics. ■ Upbeat Selling means telling prospective buyers why an item is exceptional and desirable and why they need to have it. ■ Complete Along with the good points, be up-front about any cracks or flaws the item has. Also be sure to include model numbers and serial numbers for collectors who are very knowledgeable and are looking for specific items to fill out their collections. The best descriptions engage a bidder’s imagination and get him or her to envision how the merchandise might be used, or (if it’s a used item) how others used it in the past. See Chapters 3 and 4 for more about creating good descriptions. Give Good Customer Service Customer service on eBay is a little different than customer service in either a retail store or an e-commerce Web site. On eBay, a substantial amount of customer contact takes place before a sale is made, and it mostly takes the form of answering questions by people who have either bid on your items or are considering placing a bid. In addition, you might be answering questions from individuals who don’t turn out to be your actual customers. After all, a single item can have only one high bidder or buyer, but you might receive six, ten, or even (if you’re lucky to get this much interest) twenty questions from bidders before the sale ends. Customer service on eBay, to a large extent, is a matter of checking your e-mail and responding to it in a professional and prompt manner. After a sale, customer service means making sure the merchandise is sent out quickly and that it arrives in good shape, as described in the next section. Process Those Sales Once a sale is completed, you need to communicate to your high bidders or buyers that you are competent and in charge. Send them an e-mail message to notify them that they are the winner and congratulate them on making such a good purchase.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen 26 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Provide them with shipping information, and ask them to respond as soon as possible. Once you receive payment, you need to pack your items carefully. Many sellers include notes or extra gifts with their items; you don’t have to do this, of course, but it helps build goodwill. It’s more important to include bubble wrap or other materials in the package to protect what you’re sending, and to get it out to the post office or shipper in good time. See Chapter 10 for more on this important aspect of building an eBay business. Pay Your eBay Fees Everyone’s got to pay the piper for the services they receive, and eBay is no exception. After you sell something on eBay, it’s time to pay the fees charged not only for selling items but for listing them. eBay calls its listing fees insertion fees, and the fee charged when you actually sell something a final value fee. You have to pay your insertion fee whether you sell your item or not. The fee is based on the higher of two amounts: your starting bid or your reserve price. For instance, if you sell something with a starting bid of $1 and a reserve price of $40, your insertion fee is $1.10; if you have no reserve price and your starting bid is $1, the insertion fee is $0.30. If your item sells, you then have to pay a final value fee; for reserve price and no reserve auctions, the “final value” is the final bid. On a reserve price auction, the final value fee is only charged if the reserve is met. If the final value is, for example, $100, the final value fee is about $3.38. eBay makes it quite easy to pay your fees. You can configure your seller’s account so you pay by check, money order, credit card, or by debiting a checking account. Find out more about configuring your seller’s account at http://pages .ebay.com/help/sell/payfees.html. Deliver the Goods The final step in becoming an eBay auction expert is shipping out your merchandise quickly and safely. You’ve got to find good shipping boxes, pack your items safely with plenty of packing material if necessary, and get the package to the mailer quickly. You’ve got to provide your customers with different shipping options. You’ll get to know your local postal employees and mailing services well. The professionalism with which you ship has a direct impact on the amount of positive feedback you receive. Shipping is sometimes overlooked by eBay sellers when they start out, and that’s why I’ve devoted a whole chapter to the subject: see Chapter 10 for more detailed information.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpFriday, May 09, 2003 10:28:25 AM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 1Composite Default screen CHAPTER 1: Become an eBay Auction Expert 27 Where to Find It 1 ■ eBay User Agreement http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/ user-agreement.html Rules of what you can and can’t do on eBay’s site as far as listing auctions for sale and bidding on them. ■ Current eBay Time http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/ eBayISAPI.dll?TimeShow A page that verifies the current time in eBay’s home location (in other words, Pacific Standard Time) and other time zones in the U.S. ■ eBay’s Help page on Seller’s Fees http://pages.ebay.com/help/ sell/fees.html An overview of the fees eBay charges sellers, including tables to help you calculate them. ■ eBay Stores http://www.stores.ebay.com Home page of a section of eBay’s site where merchants can sell items at a fixed price for 30 days.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch01.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 1:59:23 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen blind folio 29 Start Selling Chapter 2 with eBayP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:56 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 30 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Learn the ins and outs of selling on eBay ■ Decide how you want to sell on eBay ■ Pick the categories on which you’ll sell ■ Build positive feedback by bidding and buying ■ Set up a seller’s account Before you start selling on eBay, you need to know the secrets and the tried-and- true approaches that can make your auction business a success from the start. You’re joining a well-established business community, and one that is proving to be popular and resilient despite (or perhaps, because of) the ups and downs of the economy. To stand out from the crowd and make sales, you have to know how to compete on an equal footing with individuals who have auctioned off hundreds, even thousands, of items over a period of years. You’ve also got to gain the attention, as well as the trust, of bidders from all walks of life and all levels of computer experience. Some are wary of purchasing at auction because they’ve heard stories about sellers who take bidders’ money and never ship what they’ve sold. To build trust, you need to present your sales items— and yourself—in a professional, businesslike manner and give the impression that you are an expert seller even though you’re just starting out. That’s what this chapter will do: give you a head start so you can jump right in and sell like a pro. Learn the Culture of eBay When you’re only a bidder, eBay is all fun. You can shop, find bargains, compete with other bidders, and enjoy the thrill of being the high bidder when the auction ends. When you make the move to being a seller, you have to change your perspective. Selling on eBay can still be fun, of course. In fact, it adds a new dimension to your interactions with the other members of the eBay community. And it can certainly be fun to have extra money around at the end of the month to pay bills or treat yourself to some presents. By changing your perspective, I mean that you need to regard your selling activities as a business, and treat them as such. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard work, whether it means getting up early on a rainy Friday morning to hitP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:57 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 31 the local estate sales, hauling your wares into and out of the house, packing your merchandise carefully and taking stacks of boxes to the post office, or waiting in line to ship everything out to your customers. You need to be dedicated and keep your ultimate goal in sight: generating a regular source of income through selling 2 on eBay. The following sections help prepare you for what’s in store so you can hit the ground running and start selling (a process described in Chapter 3). eBay’s Own Educational Programs When it comes to learning how things work, I’m a big proponent of reading books, but as a book author, I’m not exactly an unbiased authority on the subject. One good way to learn all about eBay quickly is to read a book like this one and supplement your learning with some live events and tutorials provided by eBay itself. That way, you’ll get the very latest information about changes in eBay’s procedures for sellers, and you’ll get to meet some other sellers in person. eBay’s Education area includes links to tutorials for sellers, seller workshops held on the message boards, and instructions on how eBay works in general. You’ll find it at http://pages.ebay.com/education/index.html. eBay University You can pick up advanced tips and meet some experienced sellers and eBay staff people alike by attending one of the live workshops eBay sends around the country. The cost to attend is nominal, and you can learn a huge amount in a short period of time (see Figure 2-1). eBay’s education events are organized into different tracks, and each city has a different selection of classes: ■ One Track Seminars If you’re just starting out, and you can find a One Track Seminar in your area, you can learn all about eBay in a single day. In the morning, courses are held for beginners, while advanced topics are covered in the afternoon. ■ Two Track Seminars If you’re already an experienced eBay user, look for a Two Track Seminar, which lets you take a full day of classes in either the Beginner or Advanced Track. ■ Road Shows If you don’t have a lot of time to spend, look for a Road Show, a series of four hour-long courses held in an area.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:57 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 32 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 2-1 When a live eBay workshop comes to your area, strongly consider attending. eBay’s upcoming schedule of education programs, including the community event held once a year, can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/university/index.html. Power Sellers and Workshops If you can’t attend a live event in your area, you always have access to one of the best ways to learn about eBay—online workshops held by experienced sellers. When I checked, the titles of upcoming seminars all seemed useful for sellers: ■ How to Ship Large and Delicate Items ■ Listing Designer (how to make your descriptions more professional, add character, and have fun) ■ Outlet Malls—Catalog Returns and OverstockP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:57 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 33 These, too, are held on specific days. If you’re present, you can ask the hosts questions by posting them on a message board, and having the host respond to you with an answer while the workshop is going on. However, you don’t have to be present at a workshop to benefit from it. The 2 workshops are archived so you can review past discussions any time. Just scan the list of previous workshops in the right column of the Workshop Events Page (see Figure 2-2). You’ll find a list of eBay’s upcoming online seller workshops at http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/workshopevents/, along with a list of archived workshops. You can also reach past workshops at http://forums.ebay.com/forum.jsp?forum=93. FIGURE 2-2 Online workshops are held by sellers and you can view archived events any time you wish.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:58 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 34 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Be Encouraged by Success Stories As I write this, eBay is one of the few parts of the world e-commerce that are not only doing well but continuing to grow with leaps and bounds. More and more individuals are taking to selling on eBay part-time, to get a little extra money, or have even moved to making eBay their sole source of income. The amazing thing to me is that people figured out on their own that they could make a living selling solely on eBay, or supplementing other sales with eBay auctions. eBay didn’t market itself as a place where you could create your own eBay business; eBay sellers figured that out by experience. They realized that no matter how offbeat or unusual the item, they could find a buyer for it somewhere around the world. They also discovered that, with a worldwide pool of buyers available, they were likely to get a far higher price online than they could selling through an antique store, flea market, or garage sale. Listen to the stories of the people I interviewed for this book, whose profiles are presented in various chapters: ■ Bob Kopczynski sells as many as 600 items a month and doesn’t even do it full-time. He works part-time buying at estate sales and selling on eBay, but his wife works full-time and various family members and neighbors help out. ■ Don Colclough decided to close his antique store and sell full-time on eBay when he realized he could make his own hours, save on travel time, and get more buyers online than ever came through the front door of his store. ■ eBay seller decoray sold an antique photo of a tavern for more than $700; he estimates that he’s sold as many as 10,000 separate items on eBay, shipping as far away as Africa. ■ Sheila Schneider has had a hard time finding regular employment as an interior designer in Portland, Oregon, but she’s been supplementing her income nicely through eBay. Need more inspiration? eBay regularly features its own sellers on the Member Spotlight page, http://pages.ebay.com/community/people/spotlight.html. You’ll also find member profiles in the eBay newsletter, the Chatter, http://pages.ebay.com/ community/chatter/index.html, shown in Figure 2-3.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:58 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 35 2 FIGURE 2-3 eBay’s own newsletter can inspire you with profiles of successful sellers. Beware of eBay Scams and Shams This book doesn’t present a glowing picture indicating that selling on eBay always goes smoothly, and that problems never occur. On the contrary, eBay’s very popularity attracts an assortment of swindlers, cheats, and outright crooks who seek to victimize buyers and sellers alike. If you’re aware of the potential pitfalls and know how to avoid them, chances are you’ll run into very few problems during your career as a seller. When you hear about eBay in the news, you usually hear about the weird, often illegal, things that people put up for sale on the auction site. The more notorious things are quickly removed by eBay itself. You should avoid breaking the law or eBay’s own rules for sellers by reviewing the lists of questionable and prohibited items described in Chapter 16.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:58 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 36 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business That’s not to say you can’t put odd, quirky, or downright weird things up for auction on eBay. A check of the odder eBay categories, such as Slightly Unusual, Really Weird, Totally Bizarre (which are under the Weird Stuff category, which is under the Everything Else category), or the Other subcategory under the Metaphysical category will cure you of that notion right away. The important thing is that you should watch out for typical scams that plague eBay buyers and sellers alike, such as: ■ Deadbeat bidders These are individuals who refuse to pay for what they have bought. You run into these folks far less often than you might think, however. ■ Scam artists eBay members regularly get junk e-mail from individuals who claim to be representatives of eBay or the payment service PayPal, and who try to trick members into giving them their passwords or other confidential information. The perpetrators can then “hijack” the user’s eBay account. ■ Shill or fake bidders Some of the bidding activity on your merchandise may be fishy. An article on the Auction Bytes Web site (http://www.auctionbytes .com/pages/abn/y02/m04/i05/s01) reported on programs that reward customers for clicking through to the eBay Web site, registering, and bidding on auctions. Shill bidding is a prohibited and dreaded practice conducted by some disreputable eBay sellers who agree to run the price up on auction items so high bidders have to pay more than they would otherwise. You’ll find more detailed descriptions of the kinds of problems you can run into as an eBay seller, and some suggestions for overcoming them, in Chapter 19. eBay Bestsellers Making the Move from Bidder to Auctioneer Like many eBay sellers, Jo Stavig (eBay User ID: vintagevisionjo) is no stranger to antiques and collectibles, or even to putting her wares up for sale. She rented space in an antique mall in Chicago for several years, but she wasn’t happy with the 10 percent commission the mall charged on each sale, and things just weren’t selling fast enough. When she cleaned out her mall space, her home becameP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:59 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 37 filled with boxes full of twentieth-century memorabilia. With the holidays coming, she became convinced that it was time to make the move from being a buyer on eBay to starting to sell. 2 “I had some silver, crystal and glass items that I was nervous about taking to the mall because I didn’t have a locked cabinet there (you had to pay extra for that),” says Jo. “I had some inventory left over when I moved out of there, and now I had the problem of where to put it all. It seemed that eBay would be a more cost-effective way to sell and reduce my collection.” Even though she had sold merchandise, and was used to buying on eBay, Jo still found the process of becoming a seller “somewhat intimidating.” She had to make a series of decisions about how to ship, whether she would ship overseas, how to accept payments, and whether she would accept returns. Next came the issue of how to take photos, and where to store them online. Then the technical preparation—where to load your photos from, how to take photos. Her husband Steve helped by taking photos with his mini DV (digital video) camera, then touching the images up using the sophisticated graphics program Adobe Photoshop. “I put together a couple of backdrop fabrics on a drawing table, and I have a couple of clip-on lights that I can manipulate.” She signed up for PayPal, one of several payment methods that enabled her to sell overseas. She decided to take personal checks. Finally, she was ready to go online with her first sales. “It was exciting. I found it more exciting as a seller than as a buyer. At the end of an auction, watching a new bid suddenly come up was really something. My first really exciting sale was a set of six nineteenth-century silver-plated forks that I bought at a rummage sale for 10 cents each. They went for $78. I knew they were that good, but I didn’t think they were that good!” “I have not come up with a bad check policy. I haven’t gotten a bad check yet.” Jo uses the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS’s) Priority Mail for most of her shipping, and orders boxes through the USPS Web site. She emphasizes the importance of packing and shipping with care. “You can never use too much packing material. I thought I knew packing really well, because I worked in an art gallery, but found out I did not. There was a breakage on something that arrived in two pieces. I refunded part of the sales price. The buyer didn’t send it back. If something gets broken, filing a claim with the post office is really difficult.” In Jo’s first four months as a seller, she has sold about 100 lots, including “bunches and bunches of Christmas ornaments. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time doing it. I’ve been doing freelance interior design, and other types of consulting, so it definitely helps with bills.”P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:59 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 38 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Jo’s main piece of advice: “It’s worth spending some time as a browser and a buyer first before you sell. I purposely tried to accumulate some feedback as a buyer and got a feedback rating of 30 before I went out there as a seller.” The biggest benefit, she concludes, “is being able to get rid of all that stuff all around the house! Also, being able to sell things in a more timely manner, things that would have been sitting around in the mall for months without a buyer. I’ve enjoyed the contacts with buyers, which can seem amazingly personal. In mall space, other people were selling for me, and I had no contact with my customers. Now, on eBay, people will write me back, saying things like ‘I love the way this looks, this is better than it could possibly be.’ That’s been an unanticipated benefit of it for me.” Do Your Research Before you start selling on eBay, do your homework. Know which kinds of sales attract lots of bids and which turn out to be duds. Scan the message boards to get an idea of the kinds of problems sellers tend to confront, so you can watch out for them yourself. In order to succeed, any business needs to come up with a business plan, and online businesses are no different. A business plan doesn’t have to be an elaborate production. The most important things are to make sure what you want to sell, determine where you want to sell it, and verify that there’s a market of buyers for the kinds of merchandise you want to put up for auction. The sections that follow provide you with some other tips for planning your eBay business. Learn by Bidding Few, if any, people start out selling on eBay without having bid on some items first. You can open an account and start selling without any other experience on the auction site, but I don’t recommend it. The best way to get a feel for how transactions proceed and are completed is to bid on and purchase something yourself from a reputable seller. Perhaps the biggest benefit of bidding and buying before you start selling is the fact that you are able to accumulate positive feedback simply by following through with payment in a timely manner. You get some stuff you need or want, hopefully at a bargain price, and you get the feedback that you can then use to help you attract bidders when you start to sell. When you get to a feedback level of 20 or 30, people can tell you’ve used eBay for a while and are likely to be a reputable seller. At that point, you can start putting your own items up for auction.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:59 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 39 Pick Items that People Want It doesn’t do any good to put items up for sale that no one wants, that don’t get any bids, and that only consume the time and energy required to photograph and 2 list them. Rather than trying to sell new dolls that were distributed at fast-food restaurants a few months ago and that aren’t hard to find, try to sell older, limited edition dolls, preferably in their original packaging. Take a few minutes to look through the categories in which you have chosen to list your merchandise to see not only what’s desirable, but what items turn out to be dogs on the market. You might be better off giving the undesirables away to charity or on eBay’s Giving Board (http://chatboards.ebay.com/chat.jsp?forum=1&thread=59). eBay puts out a number of publications for buyers and sellers in especially popular areas, and they contain tips on what constitutes a good sales item. This newsletter has tips for people who sell antiques: http://www.ebay.com/antiquesnewsletter/Vol1Issue6.html. Pick the Category In Which You Want to Sell eBay started out with only a handful of categories in which to sell items. It’s since grown to about 8,000 different categories. Yes, it’s true, bidders often find what they’re looking for through keyword searches that bypass the category system altogether, but it still matters where you sell your merchandise. Do a search of eBay’s current or completed auctions to find items that resemble what you have to offer, and see what categories they were listed in. Because there are so many possible categories, it’s quite possible that what you want to sell could fit in one or more categories. If that’s the case, you only have to spend a few dollars more for the extra listing fee that enables you to list something in more than one category. “If you’re not sure which category is best, or if an item has two groups of collectors, try to sell it in two categories,” suggests eBay seller decoray, who says he’s sold more than 6,000 items on the auction site. Although the fee for listing an item in two categories is $5.00 instead of the $2.50 for one category, the extra investment is worth it. It pays to think the way your prospective customers think, he says. Get Registered Just as you had to register with eBay when you started to buy, you have to register to become a seller as well. Even if you already have an eBay User ID and passwordP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:59 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 40 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business and have accumulated feedback as a buyer, you still need to create a Seller’s Account. That way, eBay is able to maintain a record of your contact information if they need to contact you. eBay also requires you to put your credit card name on file so they can deduct Final Value Fees, listing fees, and the other fees that go along with getting your auctions online. To start the process, click the Sell button in the toolbar that appears near the top of virtually any eBay page. Click the seller’s account in the phrase “Create a seller’s account.” Follow the steps shown on subsequent pages to set up your account. You’ll be asked, early in the process, to enter your credit card information and your billing address. This might seem a bit off-putting, but don’t worry. eBay only uses this information to charge you when it comes time to pay your seller’s fees—not when you register. Pick a Good User ID Perhaps you already have a User ID that you use for bidding on eBay. Even if you do, when you start an eBay business you might want to consider changing it. Why? Your name is part of your identity, and therefore, it’s part of your business identity as well. Names that are frivolous, silly, or potentially offensive might turn away bidders. Whether you are creating your first User ID or thinking about changing, consider the following: ■ Make your ID reflect your business. If you sell buttons, for example, try to work the word “button” into your name. ■ Don’t use your e-mail address. For one thing, you don’t need to, as buyers and sellers can find you by clicking Ask seller a question from one of your auction listings. I made the mistake of using my e-mail address as my User ID, and I was flooded with junk e-mail. ■ Don’t use the @ or & symbol—other letters, numbers, and symbols are okay. ■ Don’t use blank spaces; if you need to separate two words, use a single underscore character (SHIFT-HYPHEN). ■ Don’t use a URL as your User ID. ■ You aren’t allowed to use the word “eBay” in your User ID.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:19:59 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 41 When you create a new User ID you get an icon that looks like a miniature pair of sunglasses next to your name. The icon tells other eBay users that you changed your User ID or obtained a new User ID sometime within the past 30 days. Remember that, if you ever have second thoughts about a User ID, you are allowed to change 2 it 30 days after you create it. Changing your User ID doesn’t mean you lose your accumulated feedback. eBay carries your feedback from your previous ID to your new one. Create a Secure Password Passwords are the most basic level of security on the Internet, and, when used by themselves and not protected by encryption or other means, one of the least secure. You can improve the inherent security of the eBay password you create by following a few simple principles: ■ Don’t use a word in the dictionary. Some hackers use password-cracking software that looks up all of the words in a dictionary to try to uncover just this sort of password. ■ Don’t make it too short. Hackers also try to crack passwords using “brute force” attacks that generates a vast quantity of random characters and submits them to the computer at very high speed. Keep your password between six and nine characters. ■ Don’t make it too long and complicated. You won’t be able to remember it, or you’ll easily mistype it. ■ Use a recognizable phrase, like My eBay Auction Business, and use the initials MEAB. Mix the characters into upper- and lowercase: mEAb. Add a number that is meaningful, such as your street address: mEAB1553. Some easy-to-use software programs are available to help you manage not only your eBay password but the many other passwords you probably use to get online, read your e-mail, and register to use other Web sites. Look into Whisper 32 (http://www.ivory.org/whisper.html), and PassKeeper (http://www.passkeeper.com).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:00 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 42 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Get the Computer Equipment You Need Making the move from only buying on eBay to selling on a regular basis is like moving from being a backup player on a sports team to a starting player. You become a full participant. Accordingly, you need to make sure your Internet connection and your computer equipment are up to snuff. This section provides some tips on what you need to put your sales listings together. Remember, when you shop for memory or other computer hardware, save your receipts. You may be able to record and deduct all these purchases as business expenses on your tax return if you make money selling through auctions (and you will!). If you’re satisfied with your Internet connection and equipment or if you sell on consignment, you can skip this section. This section is for those of you who are eager to start wheeling and dealing but aren’t sure what equipment you need. Keep in mind that I’m examining the ins and outs of running an eBay business. I’m not talking about selling something once a month or a few times a year. For occasional selling, you can use any computer equipment that gets you on the Internet. For regular sales that generate part or all of your income, though, it pays to get the best equipment and Internet connection you can afford. Internet Connection In theory, you can create and upload auction listings from a computer at your public library or at a relative’s house, but when you start selling, you’re going to need to check your e-mail regularly for inquiries from prospective bidders. You’ll also want to experience the end-of-auction excitement as bids go up on your items. You really need your own Internet connection so you can get on eBay any time of the day or night. Chances are your computer has a modem built into it that you can use to connect to the Internet. A modem is a hardware device that translates your computer’s digital data to signals carried over other types of electronic cables. A conventional analog modem translates the digital computer information into analog data that can be sent over ordinary phone lines. People who make a phone call to their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect to the Internet are said to have a dial-up modem connection. These days, most analog modems operate at a speed of 56 kilobits per second (Kbps), which is a minimal speed for using the Internet. You can do better than a conventional modem these days. I highly recommend that you look into a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or cable modem connection, ifP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:00 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 43 one is available in your area. These are direct lines, which keep you connected at all times, rather than just for the length of your modem’s phone call. Besides freeing up a phone line, a direct connection is typically light years faster than a dial-up modem connection. Cable modems receive data from the Internet through a cable 2 TV company’s existing underground fiber optic cable and may be available from one of your local cable providers. DSL is a cost-effective “starter” type of direct connection to the Net that uses conventional telephone lines to transfer data at very high speeds. You may be able to get a DSL connection from your local phone provider or an ISP such as Earthlink (http://www.earthlink.com). If you do use a phone line to get online, probably the most important telephone- or connection-related decision you can make is to install a second phone line for your online buying and selling. Having a second line is pretty much a necessity if you plan to do business online regularly—or if your children or significant other uses your existing phone line even on a semi-regular basis. If you have a “day job” in addition to your eBay sales, don’t get in the habit of putting merchandise up for sale or checking your auction listings from your office computer. You can easily get in trouble for misusing company resources. To stay out of the doghouse, set up your own system at home. Computer Buying and selling on eBay, like other types of electronic commerce, doesn’t require a machine with the latest super-fast processor and multimedia bells and whistles. Nevertheless, the speed and quality of your computer, monitor, and other hardware can affect your auction experience. If your machine is slow and your modem a crawler, it could take an inordinate amount of time to get multiple sales items online. If you can’t inspect a detailed screen image of your image as it appears on eBay, you might not be able to correct or retake it if you need to. Make sure you have, at the very least: ■ A reasonably fast computer—in other words, one with at least a 300 or 400 MHz processor. The speed at which a processor operates is measured in megahertz (MHz). ■ Lots of Random Access Memory (RAM). Along with browsing the Web and checking e-mail, you’re likely to be operating scanning and image editing software, which can be memory-intensive. Get a minimum of 128MB of RAM, and more if you can afford it.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:01 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 44 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 2-4 Improve your auction experience by shopping for computer equipment on eBay itself. Where better to buy computer equipment, if you need it, than eBay’s own Electronics & Computers category? You might find a bargain, and if you pay up quickly, you’ll get another positive feedback mark as well (see Figure 2-4). If you need to find out more about computer hardware terms and descriptions of what to buy, check out How to Do Everything with Your PC by Robert Cowart, published by Osborne McGraw-Hill. Monitor Your monitor is the window through which all the action on eBay occurs. A clear, sharp monitor can help you verify that your images are of good quality. A monitor that’s especially spacious (say, 17 or 19 inches or more) enables you to open to several browser windows at a time, so you can monitor multiple sales as they come down to the wire.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:01 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 45 When it comes to buying online, a good monitor and a video card are two of the most important investments you can make. In order to know whether an item is exactly what you want, you have to be able to see it clearly. Sometimes, too, the only reference you have for an item’s quality is an onscreen image. 2 It’s tempting to scrimp on computer monitors, especially if you’re a bargain hunter like me. You can find cheap monitors for $100, or even less if you buy a used one. Because monitors are so important to your auction experience, though, don’t scrimp on this important component. If you can afford it, purchase a 17-inch or bigger monitor instead of the smaller 14-inch variety. Even an extra inch makes a huge difference whether you’re looking at word-processing documents or Web pages. Computer monitors display graphic information that consists of little units called pixels. Each pixel appears in a computer image as a small dot. The pixels are so small that they’re hard to see with the naked eye unless you magnify an image to look at details close up. The higher the resolution, the better the image appears. A monitor resolution of 1280 x 1024, for example, refers to the number of pixels that the monitor displays. Another important point to consider when shopping for monitors is the maximum refresh rate at the monitor’s resolution. Anything less than 75Hz produces visible flashing in the image that is guaranteed to be annoying. Features like refresh rates don’t apply to LCD monitors. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, a way of displaying images on a monitor in which back light shines through liquid crystals on the screen. LCD enables the use of flat-panel displays by laptops and other computers. Software You’ll Need For the most part, you can sell on eBay using the same software you use to buy: your Web browser and your e-mail software. However, when you start to sell, you’ll probably start to use those tried-and-true programs in some new ways. Plus, you might want to install some auction-specific software. E-Mail Software Although a Web browser provides you with a port of entry for getting involved with auctions, e-mail often seals the deal. E-mail communication is essential for exchanging both pre-sale and post-sale information between buyers and sellers. You can, and should, ask sellers for background information about items in which you’re interested. As far as obtaining e-mail software, this isn’t usually something you have to worry about. You’ll probably use the e-mail software that comes with your WebP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:01 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 46 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business browser: Outlook Express for Internet Explorer or Netscape Messenger for Netscape Communicator, or America Online’s e-mail client. All of these programs handle the features mentioned below. After the sale, you need to provide shipping information and answer bidders’ questions through e-mail. It pays to be proficient with some of the finer points of e-mail communication, such as the following: ■ Quoting Almost all e-mail programs let you quote from a message to which you’re replying so you can respond easily to a series of questions and remind the sender what he or she said earlier. ■ Attaching Attaching a file to an e-mail message is a quick and convenient way to transmit information from one person to another. For instance, it’s common to e-mail a photo of an item that isn’t displayed on the Web. If you do this, be sure to send the image in a common graphics format your recipient can view, like GIF, JPEG, TIFF, or PCX. You might also want to attach a signature file to the end of your e-mail messages that describes who you are and provides the name of your eBay business (if it has a name), your User ID, and other contact information, as described in Chapter 11. Web Browser When it comes to using Internet auction services, your tried-and-true Web browser will see you through. However, when you sell, you have to run this familiar software through a few more paces than usual. You need your browser to: ■ Display sale items you want to buy or sell after you put them online, so you can make sure the listings and images look the way you want. ■ Preview any personal Web pages you create, such as an About Me page or an eBay Store (see Chapter 7). ■ Support some level of Internet security, such as encryption or secure transactions, so you can register, place bids, or change your seller’s account information if you need to. In addition to having an up-to-date browser with the latest features, having more than one kind of browser installed on your computer is often a good idea so you can test the way your auction sales look, if you use HTML formatting like colors or headings. For example, if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer becauseP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:02 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 47 that’s what came with your operating system, be sure to download the latest copy of Netscape Communicator as well. Image Editing Software 2 You need a graphics editing program either to create original artwork for your Web pages, or to crop and adjust your scanned or digitally photographed images. The software you need to adjust or crop photographic image files almost always comes bundled with the scanner or digital camera, so you don’t need to buy separate software. I discuss auction images in Chapter 8, but the two image editing programs I use the most are Paint Shop Pro by Jasc Software (http://www.jasc.com) and Adobe Photoshop Elements (http://www.adobe.com). Auction Software If you plan to present lots of auction items for sale on the Web and envision a full- fledged online business that includes customer service options and online purchases, you may want to look into software specially designed to help you present items for sale, track bids, or even set up your own auction service. One of the most popular programs is eBay’s own Seller’s Assistant (http://pages.ebay.com/sellers_assistant/ index.html). Virtual Auction Ad Pro by Virtual Notions also gives you a user-friendly way to create auction listings (http://www.virtualnotions.com) and is a program that I’ve personally found easy to use. Other software that helps you manage multiple sales at once is described in Chapter 6. Image Capture Device A good photo is pretty much a must-have for attracting bids on your merchandise. A picture is worth a thousand megabytes of information, in online terms. The photos that appear on eBay auctions need to be digitized—in other words, they need to be in the form of computer files rather than the paper photos you normally get back from your photo processor. You have a variety of options for obtaining digital images of your sales items: ■ Take photos of your merchandise with a conventional camera and have your photo processor return them to you on CD or store them online so you can retrieve them. ■ Take photos with a digital camera and save the image files on your computer.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:02 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 48 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Get conventional photos back from your photo processor and scan them into your computer using a device called a scanner. The most common type of scanner is a flatbed scanner, which resembles a miniature photocopier. It is primarily used for scanning paper items, but can be used for some small three-dimensional objects, with varying degrees of quality. Scanning is the process of turning the colors and shapes contained in an image such as a photographic print or slide into digital information (that is, bytes of data) that a computer can understand. You place the image in a position where the scanner’s camera can pass over it, and the scanner turns the image into a computer document that consists of tiny bits of information called pixels. Scanners have been around for a while, which, in the world of computing, means that prices are going down at the same time that quality is on the rise. The bargain models are well under $135, and I’ve even seen a couple priced on eBay for under $50 or less. Unless you already have a scanner at home and know how to use it, chances are you’re better off with one of the first two options. Buying your own digital camera and learning how to use it is ideal and cost-effective because it saves you photo processing costs. The advantage of using a digital camera is that it’s portable and convenient. A digital camera connects directly to your computer, so you can save images right to disk. You can get photos online in a matter of minutes without spending money or time having them processed and printed conventionally. Not so long ago, digital cameras cost thousands of dollars. These days, you can find good digital cameras that provide a resolution of 1.0 megapixels or above and made by reputable manufacturers like Nikon, Fuji, Canon, Olympus, and Kodak in the $50 to $100 range on eBay. You have to make an investment up front, but this particular tool can pay off for you in the long run. Not only can you use the camera for your auction offerings, but with the addition of a color printer, you can even print your own photos, which can save you a pile in photo lab costs. However, if you’re a techno-phobe and are most comfortable with your conventional camera, let your photo processor save the photos in digital format for you. Handheld Device This is a pretty high-tech option, but it’s worth noting that, if you use cell phones or handheld computing devices that can browse the Web, you can use them to check out your eBay auctions while you’re on the road. Find out more on the eBay Anywhere Wireless page (http://pages.ebay.com/anywhere/), as shown in Figure 2-5.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:02 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen CHAPTER 2: Start Selling with eBay 49 2 FIGURE 2-5 Use your Web-enabled cell phone or handheld device to check on your auctions while you’re away. Protect Your Investment Remember, when you run an eBay business, your computer isn’t just a toy for playing games or a tool your kids use to do their homework. It’s business equipment. Be sure to protect your investment by taking steps to guard against damage or data loss. Be sure your computer has anti-virus software installed that is configured to automatically scan your incoming e-mail for virus attachments as you download your messages. Protect your equipment against electrical problems that can result in a loss of data or substantial repair bills. A power surge or spike (a sudden increase in voltage) can damage your equipment. Electrical storms can damage ungrounded equipment, and blackouts can put you offline and prevent you from getting work done, which can hit you in your pocketbook. At the very least, make sure that your home office has grounded three-prong outlets. (Even if the rest of your house has old-fashioned outlets, pay an electricianP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:02 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 2Composite Default screen 50 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business to upgrade the line to your office.) Upgrading doesn’t just mean changing the outlets themselves, however; it means using a three-wire cable to bring electricity to the outlet. The third wire, the ground wire, should literally connect to the ground. Usually, electricians do this by burying a copper spike in the ground near your house. This causes shorts or lightning strikes to go into the ground rather than into your computer equipment. Another must-have is a surge suppressor, a device that guards your equipment against power surges and other electrical problems. A common variety is a five- or six-outlet strip with a built-in protection device. You can find surge suppressers at hardware and computer stores. Be sure to back up your data on a regular basis in case your computer is lost or stolen (if you use a laptop, this is a real possibility) or is damaged by fire, coffee spills, floods, or other natural disasters. Where to Find It ■ eBay Education http://pages.ebay.com/education/index.html Links to tutorials for sellers and workshops conducted on eBay’s message boards. ■ eBay University http://pages.ebay.com/university/index.html A list of upcoming road shows and workshops held around the country. ■ eBay Workshop events http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/workshopevents Links to excellent tutorials and workshops for sellers held on eBay’s message boards and archived online. ■ eBay Member Spotlight http://pages.ebay.com/community/people/spotlight.html Profiles of eBay users presented by eBay itself in brief question-and- answer format. ■ The Chatter http://pages.ebay.com/community/chatter/index.html eBay’s own community newsletter. ■ eBay Anywhere Wireless http://pages.ebay.com/anywhere Instructions on how to retrieve auction data on your cell phone or PDA.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch02.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 5:20:02 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen blind folio 51 Become an eBay Chapter 3 AuctioneerP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 52 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Get your eBay business up and running, step by step ■ Decide how you want to sell on eBay ■ Choose the right types of auctions for your needs ■ Add highlighting to gain extra attention ■ Use eBay’s Listing Designer to boost graphic interest ■ Get sales online with the Sell Your Item form ■ Know how to manage sales while bidding is still open ■ Procure inventory so you can keep your business running smoothly It’s time to get down to business—e-business, eBay style, that is. Any business endeavor requires some planning beforehand. Happily, setting up a sales operation on eBay is far simpler than starting a brick-and-mortar operation. You don’t have to purchase or rent a store or office space, and you don’t have to install lots of furnishings or equipment. You don’t have to hire employees (at least not yet). In fact, if you are already online and bidding on eBay, you’ve got most of what you need to get started. At this point, you just need a little bit of confidence, and you need to make a few choices. In fact, you can break down the process of starting an eBay business into a series of decisions: ■ What kind of eBay business do you want to run? ■ What are you going to sell? ■ How are you going to take photos? ■ How are you going to accept payments? ■ How are you going to ship? Each of those questions will be covered, in varying levels of detail, later in this chapter.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 53 Decision 1: Custom-Design Your eBay Business There are any number of different ways in which you can sell on eBay. Just because you settle on one option to begin with doesn’t mean you have to stay with it all the time, either. Some sellers start by selling part-time, and then quit their day jobs and sell on eBay full-time. Others fall into selling on eBay as their sole source of income 3 after they lose their job; they sell full-time for a while to make ends meet, then move to selling part-time when another job shows up. The beauty of eBay is that you can tailor the type of selling to fit your needs. The various options are described in the sections that follow. Sell Part-Time on eBay You can easily fit eBay auction sales activities around your full-time work schedule. Plenty of people do so, from those who sell only a handful of items a month to people who put twenty items online each day. Bob Kopczynksi, who has an active eBay auction business profiled in Chapter 4, works full-time at another job, but his wife devotes all of her working hours to eBay, and they have several other staff people on call as well. You should, in fact, set a moderate goal for your initial sales on eBay. Starting out by selling perhaps five or six items will help you to ease into the system and get used to how it works. It depends on the amount of time you have available, the number of items you have to sell, and your level of ambition. Become a Full-Time Auctioneer When you sell on eBay full-time, you make all of your income through eBay. It’s not clear how many people actually do this, but the fact is that individuals all across the country and around the world are selling regularly through the auction site. You get an idea just how many full-time sellers there are by doing a search for Trading Assistants in your state (see the sidebar for this URL on the following page). You’re likely to find lots of individuals with very high feedback, many of whom are probably selling either full-time or on what might be called a “most-of-the-time” basis. When you sell full-time, you have to make a substantial commitment. You’ll be checking your e-mail regularly, and putting up auction descriptions, packing, and taking photos on a regular basis. You’ll probably benefit by coming up with a regular schedule that calls for you to visit the post office or shipping store at certain times of the week, answer e-mail queries at certain times, take photos at certain times, and so on. You’ll also need to come up with a way to accumulate items to sell, because you’ll be running out of them eventually and you’ll need to replenish your inventory.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 54 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Sell on Consignment One of the easiest ways to get started with selling on eBay, especially if you aren’t sure whether you want to sell online at all, is to have someone do the selling for you and see if you like the process. It can be exciting to watch your items sell. My friend Pam does this, in fact; she has been placing her silver dinner sets and other treasures with her friend, an experienced eBay seller named Jo Stavig. Pam expressed great excitement at being able to clean out some the clutter in her house while not actually having to do the work of taking photos and creating auction descriptions. If you’re interested in having some experienced eBay sellers, called Trading Assistants, sell your items for you, go to the Trading Assistants home page (http://pages.ebay.com/tradingassistants.html) shown below. Expect to pay a fee of about 10 percent of the sale. Look for someone in your local area so you can bring your items to the seller, who can then photograph them for you and ship them out when bidding ends. In the process, you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to sell on eBay. You may just get bitten by the eBay sales bug and decide to start selling on your own.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 55 When you set up an eBay business, there are also tax and accounting implications, which are addressed in Chapter 17. You can do it all alone, but you’ll benefit greatly if you have someone to help you divide the labor. Chances are this will be a spouse, relative, or significant other. 3 eBay Bestsellers When Selling Online Is Fun A friend of mine whom I’ll call Buddhachick (not her real User ID) sold full- time on eBay for several years, selling as many as 20 to 50 items each week. When she recently took a full-time job, she had to cut back considerably on her sales activities, and now sells only a handful of items at a time. Nevertheless, she still regards selling on eBay as an enjoyable and even creative activity, one that has enabled her to meet plenty of nice individuals from all over the world. “I sell only vintage and antique stuff,” she says. “I basically spend a lot of time combing the newspapers for estate sales and antique auctions, sometimes in my local area and sometimes not so local; every Thursday night, I’m checking Internet newspaper sites for garage sales. Sometimes, I have to get there at 6:30 or 7 A.M. to wait in line so I can find some treasures. My mother was an antique dealer, and my boyfriend’s Dad was in the business. For me, the fun of it is selling stuff I really love. “It’s a little like gambling for me, in that if you find something really valuable, it can be really exciting. One time there was a 1970s belt buckle I bought for $1. It had the words ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ on it. It looked like it was from the original 1970s musical. I sold it for $40. Another time, I helped a woman who bought estates empty the house. She said I could have anything that was left. I laughed because it seemed there was nothing left. I stood on a chair and looked up near the ceiling in the basement. I pulled out all this junk. Way in the back there was a cigar box full of fishing lures. I sold one really rare one for $1,000. It was my biggest sale.” Buddhachick had some suggestions about how to handle problems that might arise during and after the sale, though she emphasized that such problems don’t occur often. “I do watch my auctions while they are going on. Sometimes people ask me to end the auction early. I never do. A new seller has to do what they think is right. Only once has the offer been higher than the eventual sale price. I just say, “Thank you for your offer” and try to be as courteous as I can, even when I know they are trying to rip me off. “When an auction ends, I also have a standard end of auction e-mail that I send out. I also have one that says, ‘I haven’t gotten your payment yet.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 56 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Thank you for bidding. Here are the details of how you can pay, and the shipping costs, and the price.’ About five percent of my high bidders have turned out to be deadbeats. It hasn’t been a huge problem.” Buddhachick has been able to put her skills to good use when writing descriptions. “One thing I learned is that I have marketing skills I didn’t think I had. I got a degree in creative writing in college, and I put it to work. I think the art of writing the description is important. I have a lot of friends who watch my auctions because they like the way I write my descriptions, and it really makes a difference.” What makes a good description? She says she learned a lot from reading the descriptions created by other sellers. “Someone wrote, ‘I have no doubt the bidders would be thrilled with the condition of this item,’ and I thought, that’s a really good way of saying that the condition is really good. So I try to say things like that, too. If something has a stain on it, I use the word ‘mark’ or ‘spot.’ I don’t say ‘stain.’ If it’s a tablecloth, I say, there are a few spots where someone must have dribbled coffee. That way the stain is part of the interesting history of the item. I don’t go over the top. I try to be honest but creative. “Another time I had this old Barbie doll in a really tight dress. It was one of the first Barbies. It looked like a 1950s nightclub singer. I said, ‘You’ll have your Barbie sing “Happy Birthday, Mister President,” in an outfit that’s great for serving mint juleps.’ Writing creative descriptions keeps me interested, too. If you’re doing 20 or 30 descriptions in a day, you’ve got to keep yourself interested.” Taking photos is not a big production: she tapes a one-color piece of cloth against the wall, and photographs the item on a table. If the item is light, she uses a dark background, and vice-versa. Buyers who refuse to follow through with payment aren’t a big deal, either. “If you have any kind of business, you’ll run into those kinds of things. I don’t hold it against people. I’ve never had a check bounce, and I have more than 1,000 feedback.” As far as shipping, she uses the U.S. Postal Service. “I like going to the post office; people there know me, and it’s convenient. I myself hate to pay high shipping costs when I buy, so I keep the shipping cost down. I offer Priority Mail or Parcel Post. I don’t charge a handling fee. “I have a lot of friends on eBay, and we’ll swap information from time to time about what sells and what doesn’t,” she concludes. “I don’t do this full-time now, but I think I spend more than 40 hours a week on it. Still, it doesn’t seem to take that much time when you are having fun.”P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 57 Supplement Web Site Sales Lots of online businesses supplement their Web site sales with eBay auction sales. They use their Web sites to advertise their businesses and give their customers a way to contact them. They put some of their merchandise up for sale there, but they also use eBay to get top dollar for especially desirable items. The Bruce 3 Hershenson site shown in Figure 3-1 claims to have sold more than 80,000 items on eBay. Boost Brick-and-Mortar Sales Companies that do business traditionally sometimes sell on eBay in order to empty out excess inventory or simply make some extra profit. In the “excess inventory” category, no less an entity than the U.S. Postal Service has used eBay to sell off FIGURE 3-1 eBay can supplement the sales on your Web site, if you have one.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 58 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business unclaimed items, according to a story on the AuctionBytes Web site (http://www .auctionbytes.com/pages/abu/y202/m05/abu0070/s02). I’ve seen plenty of antique dealers who have brick-and-mortar storefronts sitting at their computer terminals behind their cash registers, checking on their eBay sales. Arena Leather Shop of Cookeville, Tennessee regularly sells on eBay (User ID: idoleather) as well as through its brick-and-mortar outlet and its Web site (see Figure 3-2). Decision 2: Pick the Auction that’s Right for You eBay resembles a virtual ice cream store for auction buyers and sellers. Sales come in many different varieties—flavors, you might say. You can add additional interest to the flavor of sales you pick by featuring them so they stand out from other sales— you can make the listings bold or highlight them in a color, or you can feature them FIGURE 3-2 eBay sales can be part of a sales program that includes a brick-and-mortar store and Web site.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 59 in a special category. Which one is the right one for your needs? Here are some quick points to consider based on my experience: ■ Keep your starting bid low. Set it to the least amount you’re willing to take. Don’t use your starting bid as your reserve bid. I often see valuable items that have a starting bid of, say, $100. This basically tells bidders that the 3 seller has set a reserve price of $100. Once in a while, you’ll see a bid on such an item, but most times, you’ll see a big 0 in the Bids category. Large starting bids turn people away, because bidders don’t feel they’ll be getting a bargain. ■ Do some research by going to the local library and looking up value in a price guide; or search eBay’s Completed Auctions to see what similar items have sold for on the auction site. ■ Consider going with No Reserve for some items—not necessarily the ones you have paid a lot for, but ones that weren’t expensive to begin with. No Reserve sales tend to get more bids than others (though this isn’t a hard- and-fast rule). ■ If you have a number of items to sell that are exactly the same and that don’t constitute a set, such as a set of six jazz albums you uncovered in the bargain bin at a music store, consider a Dutch Auction format. In general, a good item will sell no matter what reserve price, starting bid, or Buy It Now price you put on it. Over and over, you find people who were astonished to find that they had a beer can from the 1940s and sold it for more than $16,000, for example. (See Uncle Griff’s Web site, http://www.unclegriff .com, for this and other success stories.) Don’t agonize too much over these details; just put your items out there and give them a chance to sell through a good description and clear images. Review Your Auction Options Real estate sellers have always known that location counts for a great deal. Locating your sale in the right part of the eBay auction world can make the difference between making your sale a hot item or a dud. Whether you’re a full-time or a sometime trader, one of the first steps to mastering eBay is simply understanding the different kinds of auctions that are available to you. The following sections give you an overview of the various auction categories on eBay.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 60 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Regular Online Auction The classic type of eBay auction, the one you see most of the time, enables sellers to sell to the highest bidder after a fixed length of time. Auctions can list 3, 5, 7, or 10 days (real estate auctions can run for 30 days). eBay simply calls this a “regular” auction. Ten-day auctions will cost you an extra ten-cent listing fee. This fee does not apply to three-, five-, or seven-day auctions. Reserve Price Auction A reserve price auction is the same as a regular auction in that it lasts for a fixed amount of time, and the sale goes to the high bidder—but the difference is that the high bidder only wins if his or her bid meets or exceeds an amount the seller has designated as a reserve price. A reserve price protects a seller against selling something for less than what it’s worth. If a seller simply won’t part with something for less than $50 because that’s what it cost in the first place, the seller puts a reserve of $50 on the item. Bidders only know that there is a reserve price; the auction listing makes it clear whether or not the reserve price has been met or not. The actual reserve price is kept secret. See “When to Use Reserve Auctions” later in this chapter for more. Online Auction with Buy It Now Price You can also sell an item for a fixed price called a Buy It Now price. However, if you choose the Online Auction format, the Buy It Now price disappears when the reserve price is met. For instance, if you have an item you paid $10 for and you think (and hope) it’s worth $20, you can put a reserve price on it of $10, and an initial bid of $1. Additionally, you can put a Buy It Now price on the item of $20 in the hope that someone will purchase it immediately at the price you consider ideal. The problem with Buy It Now is that it depends on you making an accurate estimate of how much an item is really worth in a worldwide marketplace full of collectors whose tastes and pocketbooks you can’t really predict. You never know if the item you sell at a Buy It Now price of $20 might really have sold for $200 to someone who was looking for an item to fill out his or her collection. Fixed Price A fixed price sale isn’t really an auction: you offer something for sale at a fixed Buy It Now price, and you don’t allow people to bid on the item. People can buy it at any time during the sale for a fixed price.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:37 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 61 You can also sell at a fixed price through an eBay Store—a Web site you can set up on eBay after you have accumulated a feedback rating of 60 or more. Things can be for sale for 30, 60, 90, or 120 days at a time. See Chapter 7 for more about setting up an eBay Store. Dutch Auction 3 A Dutch auction is one in which the seller puts two or more identical items up for sale. The seller then specifies the minimum successful price for each of those items, as well as the number of items available. Potential buyers can buy at or above the minimum for the number of items in which they are interested. At the close of the auction, the highest bidders purchase the items at the lowest successful price (that is, the lowest bid that is still above the minimum price). An example should make this easier to grasp. Suppose you uncover a box full of ten Chuckles the Cat Bean Bag Babies at a garage sale. You put all ten up for sale at the same time in a single Dutch auction. You specify a minimum bid of $20 for each cat. Eighteen separate bidders place bids: One bids $30, two bid $25, three bid $24, two bid $22, two bid $21, and the rest bid $20. The ten highest bidders win: these are the individuals who bid $30, $25, $22, and $21, respectively. However— and this is the confusing part—in a Dutch auction, they all purchase at the lowest successful price, which is $21. Those who bid $20 lose out because there are no more than ten cats available. Fixed-Price (on Half.com) If you have surplus items for sale, such as books or electronics equipment, and you are at all anxious about auction sales, Half.com provides an attractive and straightforward alternative. Sellers put up items for a fixed price; there is no bidding. There’s also little or no chance for fraud; buyers pay Half.com, which then turns around and pays the seller. See Chapter 14 for more about selling on this unique alternative to eBay. Real Estate Auctions You would be amazed at how many individuals put up real estate for sale through eBay. The system works particularly well if you have property for sale that might appeal to a wide variety of bidders throughout the world—such as a time share in the Bahamas, for instance. Your ad can appear for 30 days or 90 days in eBay’s Real Estate section (see Figure 3-3).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:37 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 62 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 3-3 Real estate can sell well when it appeals to a worldwide audience. Business Services Most of eBay’s categories allow you to auction off tangible items, whether they are as tiny as beads or as sizeable as yachts. But one category, eLance, gives professionals a place to auction off their services to other businesses. If you have talents as a graphic designer, a writer, or other professional, you can register and bid on projects. eLance brings businesses and service providers together like the want ads or employment agencies; find out more about this innovative auction service in Chapter 13. The information contained in this section changes all the time. You can get the latest list of eBay’s auction options at http://pages.ebay.com/help/ sell/formats.html. Club99 Auctions A group of eBay users have created their own auction category within the eBay auction universe. The home-grown auction, called Club99, takes place the secondP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:38 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 63 Saturday of every month. Merchandise is offered at an opening price of 99 cents with no reserve price. The auctions last a week. You won’t find exotic Italian sports cars or Babe Ruth autographed baseballs here. The typical Club99 auction is a single object such as a book, CD, alarm clock, shirt, or another household or personal item. Find out more about this special Saturday event at http://members.ebay .com/aboutme/club99. 3 How to Use Reserve Auctions Most of the auctions you find on eBay are reserve price auctions. A reserve price is a way you can protect your investment: it’s a price you set that represents the lowest price at which you are willing to sell an item. Usually, your reserve price isn’t disclosed to bidders, so they are encouraged to bid as high as they wish. If someone’s bid goes above the reserve price you have specified, you are required by eBay to sell it to that high bidder. On the other hand, if the bids that have been placed fail to meet your reserve price, you aren’t required to sell to anyone. Just because no one meets your reserve price, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell. You and the high bidder can negotiate a sales price. You can send an e-mail saying, “My reserve price was $____ and I’ll sell it to you for that much,” for instance. Or, if you think you’ll have better luck trying again, you can relist your item in a couple of weeks. Here’s an example. Suppose you find a doll from the 1960s at an estate sale for $20. Naturally, you want to sell the doll for at least $20 plus your listing fees and any expenses you have incurred in obtaining the item (gas, time, effort, and the time involved in creating the auction listing. You put a reserve price of $25 on the doll when you create the auction listing. You also set an initial bid—a bid at which you want the auction to start—of as low as one cent, but more commonly, about $1. You do this in the Sell Your Item form (see Figure 3-4). You have an additional option to consider—whether you want to give bidders the option to stop the sale and simply sell the item for a fixed price that you consider reasonable. Suppose, for the doll in question, you’ve done some research through doll catalogs and completed eBay auctions and you have determined that it must be worth $100. You put a Buy It Now price of $100 on the doll, which gives bidders the opportunity to buy it immediately. You save some time and trouble, and you sell to someone you can be reasonably sure is going to follow through with payment.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpFriday, May 09, 2003 10:13:47 AM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 64 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 3-4 A reserve price protects your investment, but remains concealed from bidders while the sale is going on. The prevailing wisdom about starting bids is that, the lower the starting bid, the more likely you are to attract any bids at all. Higher starting bids scare off bidders who are afraid that the bidding will go too high and they’ll never win. There’s another consideration about setting the starting bid, however: The lower the starting bid, the more bids are required to meet your reserve price. This can work to your advantage, however: a sale that attracts 30 bids or more is designated as a “hot item” and eBay adds a matchstick icon to its listing. This tells bidders that the item is especially desirable and is likely to attract more attention. When to Use Featured Auctions Chances are you’ve spent a considerable amount of time finding, hauling, photographing, and describing your merchandise. You can go a step further and make your sale items appear exceptional by placing them in special categories. Featuring an item in these specialized categories costs extra, and items offeredP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:38 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 65 for sale in those categories tend to cost more, too. But the merchandise in these featured categories generally is unique and hard to find. Featured Auctions Featured Auction listings appear at the top of the main Listings page, which is accessible from the menu bar at the top of every page on eBay. Additionally, some 3 Featured Auction listings are randomly selected to appear on the eBay home page. However, there’s no guarantee when or whether a certain item will appear in this well-traveled, highly popular location. To create a Featured Auction, you need to meet certain requirements. You must have ten or more positive feedback comments, and the merchandise listed can’t include adult items or things that eBay judges to be “illegal, illicit, or immoral.” Find out about Featured Auctions and Category Featured Auctions (more information on these in the next section) at http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw- cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?Featured. Featured Plus! Auctions Sellers must have a feedback rating of at least ten to list items as Featured Plus! Auctions, but they aren’t subject to the other restrictions that apply to Featured Auctions (see the previous section). Featured Plus! Auctions appear at the top of the first Web page for the eBay category in which they fall. Paying the extra $19.95 listing fee is a good way to get attention for an exceptional item, particularly if the listings in its category run to 30, 40, or even more Web pages. As with Featured Auctions, the seller decides whether an item is special enough to fall into this category. Featured Auctions or Featured Plus! Auctions don’t have to be more unique or notable than other auction listings. In fact, they might be items that need a little extra attention in order to attract bidders. The Gallery Another way to gain extra attention for your merchandise is to include a photo of it in the category in which it is listed. Such photo-enabled descriptions are called Gallery Listings. They carry an additional 25-cent listing fee. The eBay Gallery used to be a separate photo album of its own; now, the Gallery appears right in the category. When people see your listings in the in the category, they appear with a photo next to them (see Figure 3-5) and can stand out from other listings that have no Gallery photos.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:39 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 66 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 3-5 Gallery listings use photos to make your merchandise stand out from the crowd. They can also click on the Gallery View link in the View box on the left of a listing page to see only Gallery items in that category (see Figure 3-6). To add your image to the gallery, simply save your image in JPEG format and check a box when you list your item. If you want something to really stand out, you can pay an additional fee of $19.95 to sell it in the Gallery Featured format. Such items appear in a special Featured section above the gallery; Gallery Featured photos are twice as big as other photos. Find out more about JPEG, GIF, and other image-related alphabet soup in Chapter 8. Other Featured Categories Imagine that you’ve shown up at the local flea market at the crack of dawn, hoping to get the best place for your table full of sales merchandise. How do you get the most attention? You place yourself near the entrance, or near a frequently-visitedP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:39 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 67 3 FIGURE 3-6 Gallery listings also appear on this page for viewers who like to shop by catalog. facility such as the refreshment stand. You arrange your space with eye-catching merchandise. Similarly, eBay provides you with a variety of other ways to get more attention for your merchandise in a long page full of listings. Examples include: ■ You can make a listing bold for an additional fee of $1.00. ■ You can highlight the auction listing with a band of color for $5.00. ■ Featured In Search, which costs $19.95 per item, is used only with Buy It Now items; it places such items at the top of a search results page. ■ Home Page Featured. Such items “have a chance” that they will appear in a list of items that appear on eBay’s home page. eBay doesn’t guarantee that they will actually appear there, however. Just to have the opportunity costs $99.95. (The Home Page Featured items are also listed on a special page full of featured items.)P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:40 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 68 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Gift Auctions. Sellers pay an extra dollar to have a gift icon included along with their listing title and to have the items included in a special gift category. Such gifts are supposed to be suitable for gifts for Mother’s Day, birthdays, or other occasions. Gift autions also allow buyers to find your items if they search on a gifts page or if they check the box next to Gift Items on the Advanced Search page (http://pages.ebay.com/search/items/search_adv.html). To my mind, the bold and “band of color” highlight options are the cost-effective and the best choices. If your item is noteworthy and someone who really wants it is looking for it, they’ll find it whether or not you spend money to feature it. Decision 3: Decide How to Take and Store Auction Photos Everything that appears on the Web is stored on a computer called a Web server. A Web server is connected to the Internet twenty-four hours a day, and is equipped with special software that makes files available to anyone with a Web browser. When you create an auction listing, it is stored on one of eBay’s servers. When you capture images of your items, you have some options. You can move your files from your computer to one of eBay’s Picture Services sites and store them there. eBay lets you store one image per sale for free; the rest are subject to charges. Because of the cost (and image quality considerations, which I explain in more detail in Chapter 8), you might want to find another home for your image. You may, for instance, choose one of the auction management services mentioned in Chapter 7. These services come with their own storage space for auction images. Or you can use the storage space that comes with your Internet access account. Before you can find a home at all, you have to have some images to put there. Are you going to have a friend or relative take photos for you? Or are you going to buy a digital camera and do it yourself? In any case, you need to decide how you’re going to take good-quality digitized (in other words, computerized) images, because good photos are critical to sales. See Chapter 8 for a run-down of the options. You might hear the techy sounding term upload in connection with storing images and creating Web pages. When you download a file, you copy it from a Web server to your computer. When you upload, you move a file in the opposite direction, from your computer to a server online.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:40 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 69 Decision 4: Figure Out Your Payment Options Transferring payment for something that’s purchased online, whether it’s through an auction or through an e-commerce Web site like Amazon.com or Landsend.com, is one of the most nerve-racking things you can do with your computer. The big danger, from a seller’s standpoint, is that you’ll run into a high bidder who changes 3 his or her mind or backs out of the deal for some other reason—you’ll never get paid, and you’ll be forced to re-list what you sell. Buyers, for their part, have the great fear that they’ll hand over payment to a seller who will take the money and run without ever bothering to ship what’s been purchased. These things do happen, unfortunately, but my experience indicates that they occur less often than you might think. A number of options for getting payment from buyer to seller have been used with success by thousands of eBay users, and while they’re described in some detail in Chapter 9, here is a brief summary of the kinds of choices you need to make now, before you start putting up items for sale. Should You Use an Payment Service? Brief answer: Yes. An payment service is a company that serves as an intermediary between someone who provides goods or services and someone who pays money in exchange for those goods and services. Instead of sending a check or money order to a seller directly, the buyer pays the service, which transfers it to the seller. Depending on the service, both the seller and buyer have to have accounts with the same payment service. One payment service, PayPal, is widely used on eBay, and in fact was purchased by eBay not long ago. But PayPal charges fees that make some sellers unhappy, and other services such as BidPay (http://www.bidpay.com) are also popular. The point is that payment services make buyers feel more secure about bidding, and you need to use at least one service in order to sell on eBay. Keep in mind that PayPal and BidPay only offer minimal protection for buyers or sellers. Although PayPal does verify the IDs of charge card users in the United States, credit card fraud still occurs. And BidPay offers no protection at all. The Escrow service Escrow.com offers a more secure environment for buyers and sellers than BidPay or PayPal. Escrow.com withholds payment to sellers until after the buyer has received the merchandise and approved it. The service also verifies payments by credit card so sellers are protected against fraud.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:40 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 70 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Should You Accept Checks? Short answer: Yes, with qualifications. Many sellers accept checks for years without encountering any that turn out to have rubbery qualities (in other words, that are returned for lack of funds). Even if you do run into bad checks, that doesn’t mean you should penalize all of your buyers by refusing to accept checks altogether. Just put a note on your auction listings that puts buyers on notice that, if they send you a check, you will wait ten days to two weeks for the check to clear before you send shipment. The veteran seller decoray, who is profiled elsewhere in this chapter, includes an extensive note about checks with each of his auction listings (see Figure 3-7). Should You Accept Credit Card Payments? Quick answer: Not yet, unless you already accept credit cards through a brick-and- mortar store or an e-commerce Web site. Enabling yourself to accept credit cards is typically an involved process, as is the matter of verifying credit card information FIGURE 3-7 Tell buyers up front that you’ll accept checks but won’t ship until they clear.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:41 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 71 and dealing with chargebacks—the cost of purchases removed from someone’s account if their credit card was used fraudulently. You need some sort of hardware or software to process the credit card data your buyers send; you need to pay fees to the banks or merchant account companies that actually process the payments. Get yourself well-established as an eBay seller before you tackle this one. 3 Decision 5: Pick Your Shipping Options Getting your merchandise where it’s supposed to go, quickly and safely, is one of the things that buyers note when they leave feedback for sellers. And at this early stage, accumulating positive feedback should be one of your big goals (along with generating income, of course). Therefore, you need to determine—now, before you start making sales—how you’re going to pack and ship your merchandise. First, you need to pick a shipper. Most eBay sellers choose between the United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), or Federal Express. The USPS’s Priority Mail is especially popular because of delivery times as low as two days and the free, high-quality boxes, labels, and other shipping materials sellers get to use. But FedEx’s Ground and Home Delivery options are competitively priced, especially for heavy items. In any case, you’ll need to start accumulating large quantities of boxes, bubble wrap and other packing material, packing tape, labels, and other goodies. See Chapter 10 for more details. Conduct Your First Auction Let’s say you’ve made the decisions you need to get started. You’ve got your ducks in a row and you’re ready to start selling. To make sure, go through the following checklist: ■ You’ve signed up for a seller’s account with eBay and submitted your credit card information. ■ You have accumulated some positive feedback through bidding and buying at auction. ■ You’ve determined the general type of eBay business you’re going to run. ■ You’ve accumulated the merchandise you’re going to sell. ■ You’ve purchased a digital camera or figured out another way you’re going to capture digital photos of your merchandise. ■ You’ve picked some categories in which you’re going to sell your merchandise.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:41 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 72 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ You’ve signed up with a payment service and decided on other methods of accepting payment. ■ You’ve gotten together your shipping materials and picked a shipping method. At last, you’re ready to get some sales online and start getting bids. The following sections describe how to get started. Gather Your Materials Pull together the items you plan to sell first. Don’t start with too many items at once; for starters, just try a handful so you can get used to the process gradually. Get a good quality digital camera, or consider assembling a “photo studio” including auxiliary lights and solid-colored backdrops you can use for photos. Come up with a boilerplate text that you can use with all of your auction listings—standard text that you include with each of your descriptions and that applies to all of your items. Buddhachick, the seller profiled earlier in this chapter, has a particularly friendly boilerplate: I take personal check, PayPal, and money orders. SORRY MICHIGAN BUYERS, PLEASE ADD 6% SALES TAX! Please do not be alarmed if it takes me a day or two to send you your total. I have several jobs and with the new USPS policies, calculating totals is a bit time consuming! It is my goal that all buyers will have a pleasant experience doing business with me. I am reasonable, honest, and I make every effort to describe each item accurately. If shipping is not quoted in description, I will charge actual shipping only. Clothing and textiles are sold as is, directly out of estates unless otherwise noted. I do not take responsibility for uninsured items. I will contact you sending you an “eBay Checkout Invoice.” Thanks for looking and HAVE FUN!! You might say something about your payment options and about your policies as a seller. Save this document as a text file that you can paste into the Sell Your Item form whenever you create an auction listing.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:41 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 73 Do Your Product Research Look on your sales as a pleasant, creative experience. You are creating miniature sales campaigns, one for each item. Telling the story of how you found an item and describing how it looks can be fun (at least, it is for someone like me, who enjoys writing and describing things anyway). 3 At the very least, take a few minutes to look around at search engines and collectors’ Web sites, as well as some price guides in the library, to find out exactly what you’ve got and what you might be able to get for it. You just might discover that you have a real treasure once you do a little research with a respected resource such as the popular Kovels price guide. The Kovels Web site (http://www.kovels .com) shown in Figure 3-8 contains more than 340,000 items in its database. FIGURE 3-8 Do some research so you can create compelling descriptions of your merchandise.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:41 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 74 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Pick the Right Auction Category Once you prepare to sell items on eBay, you take a different perspective to categories than you do as a buyer. Your goal is to find the category (or categories) in which you’re most likely to find people who are interested in bidding or buying what you’ve put online. You want to find those ideal buyers who not only like what you’re offering but who’ve simply got to have it to complete their collection. These are people who probably know more than you do about your item, who collect similar items as well. Do a search for items that seem similar to yours and see in what categories they appear. You aren’t limited to listing your item in one category. In fact, if you think your item could fit well in two different categories, you’ll find it cost-effective to list in two places. You pay two listing fees as well as any upgrade fees such as Bold or Gallery. (You can’t list real estate in two categories, however.) If you are at all apprehensive about putting something up for sale, do a test. you’ll notice that one of the categories in the list is simply called Test. This enables you to put your sale online without having other users bid on it. It’s a place where you can make sure your images appear the way you want and that you have used the Sell Your Item form correctly. You’ll find a complete list of categories, plus the number of items currently up for sale in each one, at http://listings.ebay.com/pool1/listings/list/ overview.html. Create Your Descriptions Once you’ve gathered details about what you’re selling and taken some photos (see Chapter 8), you can begin filling out the Sell Your Item form and actually creating auction listings. You only need to click the Sell button in the toolbar that appears on nearly all eBay pages to access the form. (You may be prompted to sign in with your User ID or password first, unless you’re already logged in.) The form itself contains tips on how to provide good information. But just for good measure, here are a few more tips. Your Auction Title The title of your auction listing is critical. When shoppers conduct searches on eBay and come up with lists of auction items, they’ll come up with your title as well as others. Make your title no longer than five or six words. Be sure to pack as much relevant information in those five or six words as possible. The moreP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 75 information you can put in, the better your chances of selling. Don’t waste valuable space using tired terms such as L@@K or !!Wow!! which are overused and have no effect on buyers. Try to put in dates and brand names if you can: rather than saying “Beautiful Pottery Vase,” say “Pink Roseville Pottery Vase 1934.” Also, remember to be honest: if something is a reproduction rather than an antique, don’t bury that fact at the bottom of a description. Lack of forthrightness 3 will turn buyers off; they may never look at your auctions again. Category As I mentioned, eBay presents you with hundreds of different categories. Look for items that are similar to yours. Also, try to imagine the kind of person who might want what you have to sell, and try to envision how it might be used. This might suggest the category where such an individual might look for it. Picture URL URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, a standard address that enables anyone with a Web browser to locate an object or Web site that’s on the Internet. You get the URL for your image from the site where you have stored your image. This can be eBay’s own Picture Services or another photo hosting service. See Chapter 9 for more details about adding images. Minimum Bid A minimum bid is a starting point. It’s like the auctioneer in an auction saying, “Bidding will start at one dollar. Do I hear two dollars?” It’s generally a good idea to pick a small minimum bid, such as $1, for the starting point. Many bidders pick an amount that represents the very least they’re willing to accept for an item as the minimum bid. It’s not at all uncommon to see items that start at $100. But you’ll often notice that such auctions attract no bidders at all. Sellers are likely to turn bidders off by setting a sizeable minimum. Let the bidders feel they’re getting a bargain when they start out; you set a reserve price to ensure that an item won’t sell for less than a certain price. The Description On the Internet, unlike other media, information sells. The more you can say about a sales item, the more likely you’ll generate interest in it. The most experienced sellers try to create descriptions that engage the viewer’s imagination—that induce viewers to imagine what that pair of gloves might feel like, or how they might use that automatic juicer, or how that old Ford Thunderbird would look in their driveway.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 76 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Don’t be reluctant to point out any flaws in what you are selling. You don’t want bidders to discover flaws when they unpack the item. You want them to know exactly what they’re getting—and to know that you’re an honest seller whom they can trust. Use Listing Designer A feature that appeared as I was writing this book, Listing Designer, is accessed from page 3 of the Sell Your Item form. It’s an interactive utility that lets you pick a theme and a layout for your item (see Figure 3-9). There is an extra charge of ten cents for each item for which you use Listing Designer. However, many sellers will find this a bargain because Listing Designer has one big plus: it shields sellers from having to know HyperText Markup Language (HTML). HTML is the set of markup instructions that lets you create Web pages. Without using Listing Designer, the only way to format auction listings is to write the HTML by hand and paste it into the Sell Your Item form. FIGURE 3-9 eBay’s Listing Designer lets you formats auction listings by adding themes.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 77 You can find out more about Listing Designer at http://pages.ebay.com/ sell/designer-landingpage. Monitor Your Sales Activity Once your sale goes online, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on it just to 3 see when the bids come in, and to check out exactly who bids on it. This is when all your hard work pays off. You’ll need to check your e-mail in order to field questions from interested customers. If you receive several questions that are in a similar vein, you may want to edit your description to include the answer as additional information. Even while your sale is ongoing, you can change the item’s category or add additional text or photos any time you want. If you want to add photos or details to your auction descriptions (for instance, in response to questions posed by your bidders), use the to Adding to Your Item Description page shown in Figure 3-10 (http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/ add-to-item.html) and filling out the form. FIGURE 3-10 You can add photos after your sale has started.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 78 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Can You Edit Your Description? It’s a good idea to read your description closely and make sure it’s accurate before you post the listing online. That’s because changing your description isn’t a straightforward matter—at least, not after bids have been received on that item. After all, the people who place bids might take offense if the description changes and other bidders can act based on new information they didn’t have originally. The Adding to Your Item Description page mentioned earlier only lets you add to a description. If you want to actually edit an auction listing, click the revise link on that auction page. This lets you change everything about the auction. However, if bids have been placed on that item, clicking “revise” will not let you edit the actual auction listing unless you cancel all the bids. If you don’t want to cancel any bids, you can only add to the description, not change the original. Close the Deal When the sale ends, in some ways a new round of work begins. In this case the work ends with a couple of big rewards, however: you receive payment, and you get positive feedback for your good customer service. In order to get those rewards, you need to begin by contacting your high bidder or buyer promptly—within the hour after the sale ends, if you can, but at least within a day. eBay sends the buyer a stock e-mail notification that the sale has ended and the person is the high bidder. You should follow quickly with your own e-mail, in which you congratulate the winner and provide them with directions for paying you. You’ll need to find out how the buyer wants the item shipped (if you offer two different shipping options, such as Priority Mail and Parcel Post). You’ll also need to know where the buyer lives so you can calculate the exact shipping cost—virtually all shippers charge based on weight, the size of the package, and the distance to be shipped. After payment comes in, before you celebrate, send out an e-mail acknowledgement to your bidder to let them know that you have received the check, money order, PayPal account transfer, or credit card payment. More importantly, you need to tell the customer when you’re shipping out the merchandise. It’s a good business practice to send out your merchandise the same day that the payment arrives, or the day the payment clears your bank. (Most banks will let you know if a check is cleared either by phone or in person.) Try not to wait more than a week until after the payment clears, or you risk having your buyer leave you negative feedback.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 79 Resell an Item Hopefully, most of the items you put up for sale on eBay will actually go to a bidder or Buy It Now buyer. However, you’ll probably put up some items that don’t attract any bids at all. That doesn’t mean you need to give up selling the item. You attract more (or higher) bids at a later date by providing better images, 3 changing the title or description, or going with No Reserve—removing the reserve price altogether. You can relist your item if the following applies: ■ You didn’t receive any bids on a regular auction and you did not hold a Dutch auction. ■ Fewer than thirty days have passed since the closing date of the first auction. ■ You didn’t receive any bids that met your reserve price if you originally held a reserve price auction. eBay does charge you a second insertion fee if you relist your item, but if your item sells the second time you put it up for sale, eBay will refund you the second insertion fee. (But if it doesn’t sell the second time, you still need to pay the second insertion fee.) Paying eBay’s Seller Fees How does eBay make the money that made it one of the most successful e-commerce operations in recent years? It makes money from people like you who sell items on its site and who are charged fees. You need to pay a fee before the sale, called an insertion fee, just to list an item for auction. You must pay the insertion fee whether or not the transaction is successfully completed. The insertion fees in place as this was written are listed in Table 3-1. After your item sells, you pay eBay a commission called a Final Value Fee. The final value fee isn’t a flat fee, but is calculated based on the final sale price or the type of item sold. Table 3-2 indicates how to calculate final value fees. Opening Value/Reserve Price/ Buy It Now/Minimum Bid Insertion Fee $0.01-$9.99 $0.30 $10-$24.99 $0.55 $25-$49.99 $1.10 $50 and up $2.20 TABLE 3-1 eBay Insertion FeesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 80 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Example Sale Price How to Calculate Final Value Fee Final Bid Final Value Fee $25 or less Multiply sale price by .0525. Round $23 $23 x .0525 = $1.2075 the number to the nearest penny. Final Value Fee = $1.21 $25.01 to $1,000 Take $25 of the sale price and multiply $800 $25 x .0525 = $1.31 it by .0525. Multiply the sale price $775 x .0275 = $21.31 minus $25 by .0275. Add the two calculations. $1.31 + $21.31 = $22.62 $1,000.01 Follow steps for a sale less than $2,500 $25 x .0525 = $1.31 $1,000 but take the amount over $2,475 x .0275 = $68.06 $1,000, multiply it by .015, and add that to remaining amounts. $1,500 x .015 = $22.50 $1.31 + $68.06 + $22.50 = $91.87 TABLE 3-2 Calculating Final Value Fees How do you actually pay eBay’s insertion fees and final value fees? You have a couple of options. You can use eBay Direct Pay, in which eBay automatically deducts your bank account each month if fees apply. You can have eBay charge a credit card, or you can have eBay invoice you and pay by check or money order. If you sell only occasionally, it makes sense to pay invoices as they arrive. eBay’s current selling fees are listed at http://pages.ebay.com/help/ sellerguide/selling-fees.html. Keep Your Store Well-Stocked When you’re selling on eBay occasionally, you can sell whenever you find something at a yard sale or secondhand shop. If you want to create an eBay business that provides you with a steady source of part-time or full-time income, acquiring inventory you can then sell on eBay becomes a major part of your operation. You’ll do better if you can do strategic buying: buying good items at an economical price that you can then auction off at a profit on eBay. How, exactly, do you do strategic buying? The following sections provide some suggestions. Know Your Field There’s a store not far from me that specializes in clothing and memorabilia from the 1960s and 70s. The owners, a husband and wife, head over to the local resale shop every morning when the store opens at 11 A.M. They are among the first customers, and they find plenty of inventory over there. I know because I oftenP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 81 go there myself. The difference is that, while I’m not looking for anything in particular, they know exactly what they want and what their customers are looking for: cool “retro” clothing and bric-a-brac that they can wear to parties or add to their collection of nostalgia. You can learn a lesson from these folks, and from the many eBay sellers who deal in American memorabilia of the second half of the twentieth century. You 3 don’t have to pick a particular type of item, necessarily; you only have to pick a period and study it well. When you go out shopping at garage or estate sales, know what you’re looking for. The better you know what’s valuable, the better your chances of uncovering a hidden treasure. Know Where the Good Stuff Is When you’re shopping for inventory, it pays to look where you are likely to find quality merchandise. The Chicago area where I live is known as a particularly good source of secondhand collectibles. But some areas within the area, such as the suburbs north of Chicago where many high-income people live, yield better results than others. Look for garage and estate sales in such neighborhoods in your own area. Often, local newspapers that cover individual towns or groups of towns contain more listings for estate sales and garage sales than major metropolitan newspapers. The area I mentioned is covered by a chain of newspapers that lets you browse through its garage and estate sale listings online, as soon as they come out. You can scour the classifieds (see Figure 3-11) and plan your Friday or Saturday shopping activities accordingly. Once you have an area in mind and a general sense of what you’re looking for, you can shop through the typical venues where collectibles and valuables are sometimes found: ■ Garage sales ■ Secondhand stores ■ Auction sales In addition, you might find inventory by buying at local retail or wholesale outlets that are having closeouts or that sell merchandise at reduced prices. ■ Discount club stores ■ Dollar stores ■ Going-Out-of-Business salesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen 82 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 3-11 Look through classified ads online to plan shopping trips. No matter where you shop, another tried-and-true tip for finding bargains is “Buy off-season.” You’ll find the best prices on Christmas decorations in July, not in November. Similarly, winter is a great time to stock up on sports equipment, croquet sets, badminton sets, barbecue equipment, and other outdoor merchandise. Many of the people who scour eBay looking for auction bargains aren’t collectors at all, but dealers in antiques and collectibles who are looking for inventory. While it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that you’ll find someone buying a bargain item on eBay that he or she will later attempt to sell for a profit on eBay, you do find people who buy on eBay to stock their antique stores or to provide stock they can sell at a flea market or a show.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 3Composite Default screen CHAPTER 3: Become an eBay Auctioneer 83 Where to Find It ■ Trading Assistants Homepage http://pages.ebay.com/ tradingassistants.html Search page where you can locate eBay sellers who will sell on 3 consignment. ■ Sell Your Item form Click the Sell button in the eBay toolbar (no URL) A form you fill out to get your auction sales online. ■ Selling Formats page http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/formats.html List of current eBay sales formats, with fees if applicable. ■ Category Overview page http://listings.ebay.com/pool1/listings/list/ overview.html Long list of eBay sales categories and subcategories, plus the number of items currently being offered in each one. ■ Adding to Your Item Description page http://pages.ebay.com/services/ buyandsell/add-to-item.html Form you can fill out to add more details to the description of an item you currently have up for sale. ■ Selling fees page http://pages.ebay.com/help/sellerguide/selling- fees.html List of eBay’s current fees for listing and selling items.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch03.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:05:44 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen blind folio 85 Improve Your Part II Competitive EdgeP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:19 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen blind folio 87 Tips and Strategies Chapter 4 for Online SellersP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 88 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Turn your hobby into a business by setting long-term goals ■ Build confidence among bidders by gaining credibility as an expert in your field ■ Create honest and complete product descriptions that encourage bids ■ Solve problems and get inside tips by networking with other sellers ■ Attract bids by selling without a reserve ■ Handle problems in a businesslike manner ■ Obtain merchandise at a bargain so you can resell it ■ Gain attention for your auctions by linking and advertising You’ve learned the basics of buying and selling on eBay. You’ve even put that old cuckoo clock that used to clutter your attic or that old Mickey Mantle baseball card up for sale. You’ve started to accumulate some positive feedback. You’re thinking to yourself: “I can do this. This auction sales thing is actually fun!” In other words, you’ve been bitten by the eBay selling bug—the eBug, you might call it. Now it’s time to take your auction sales to the next level. You need to turn what’s currently an occasional thrill into a regular routine. Once you come up with a system for selling on eBay, you can begin to boost your sales income to new levels. The mechanics of buying and selling individual items on eBay are relatively simple. Turning your eBay sales hobby into an eBay business is more involved. In many ways, it’s a matter of changing your perspective—of making the eBug work for you. In this chapter, you’ll get some insider tips—tips I’ve gleaned from my own experience, and from talking to eBay sellers about how to change your sales perspective. You’ll learn that you need to keep the long-term establishment of a successful business as your ultimate goal, which might mean writing off quick profits or occasional problems. You’ll learn how to work with the eBay community rather than operating as a “lone wolf.” You’ll learn to boost sales by selling with no reserve and by letting the market determine the final price. Finally, you’ll learn how to find inventory, implement some marketing tricks, and drum up free advertising so you can stand out from the competition.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:20 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 89 Work for the Long Term People are what make eBay run well, but when it comes to making sales, you need to look to the numbers. Various numbers can induce shoppers to place bids: the number of items you have for sale at one time, which tell bidders that you’re likely to be a professional and not a “fly by night” seller; the reserve price and opening bid prices you set; and the most important kind of number that directly affects your sales— your feedback rating. The eBay sellers who are able to earn a steady 4 supplemental income or who sell on eBay full-time tend to be the ones with high feedback. Go Retail What, exactly, constitutes “high feedback” these days? As eBay grows and becomes more established, the amount of feedback displayed by the Power Sellers goes up as well. Right now, according to the sellers I interviewed for this book, there’s a threshold in the 1,000 to 1,200 feedback range. If you have feedback in the range of 200 to 1,000, you are certainly doing well, and customers are certain to know you are an experienced eBay merchant. But when you reach 1,000, something happens. “I call it ‘going retail,’” comments Bob Kopczynski, a longtime eBay seller who is profiled later in this chapter. “When my feedback rating went over 1,000, I started getting more bids and higher prices for what I was selling. It was like people recognized me as a retail businessperson, not just a part-time seller. It’s the difference between someone who has been running a brick-and-mortar store for ten years and someone who just opens a store down the street. The store that’s been established is going to get the most business.” I’m not suggesting that you need to shoot for a feedback rating of 1,000 specifically before you can be a successful eBay businessperson. Not at all; however, this is a book about running an eBay business, not just selling on eBay once or twice a year. A feedback rating of 100 or 200 is great in its own way. If, however, you want to make all or part of your regular income through selling on eBay, you need to set your sights higher—the higher, the wider your perspective will be, and the better your chances of success.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 90 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Build That Feedback How do you build your feedback ratings? It takes time, effort, commitment— and a systematic way of completing transactions and shipping out merchandise. Do everything you can to build your feedback by putting up lots of no-reserve sales and shipping them out promptly to your high bidders or buyers. The eBay feedback ratings at the time I was writing this book are shown here: As you can see, a rating of 1,000 isn’t that high, relatively speaking. Suppose you sell 20 items a week—you’ll get to 1,000 in a year, provided all your responses are positive—and provided all of your customers actually leave feedback, which doesn’t always happen. Come up with a plan for how you can get to 20 sales per week: you need to obtain merchandise by scouring flea markets, auctions, or garage sales; consider enlisting the help of friends andP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 91 relatives who can assist you with packing and shipping; come up with a weekly schedule and stick to it. Such a schedule would call for you to get your sales online, say, on Monday morning; end your sales on the following Monday; get a new batch of sales online late Monday; respond to bidders Monday night or Tuesday morning; ship out on Thursdays and Fridays; and so on. Also remember to remind your customers, after they have received the goods, to leave a feedback comment. Otherwise, they might well forget to do so. In fact, you should 4 expect to have to remind your buyers to leave feedback—a large proportion don’t bother to do so on their own. Go By the Numbers You need to establish a long-term “numbers goal” for your eBay sales. The moment you declare to yourself, “I’m going to have an 800 feedback rating by the end of the year,” or “I want to be making $1,000 a month on eBay by the end of the year,” your perspective changes. Individual sales become less important than your cumulative sales figures. Turning sales around quickly and keeping your customers satisfied becomes the top priority. Rather than focusing on this or that individual sale, you start thinking of coming up with a system, and building volume, with the ultimate goal of building profits. Build Your Credibility Most consumers have needs that are pretty straightforward. They want a reason to buy from you as opposed to all of those other sellers that populate eBay’s auction listings. They want to feel they can trust you; they want to get what they pay for quickly. Above all, they are looking for a bargain. To some extent, you can’t control whether they get a bargain or not. You put an item up for no reserve, or you set a modest reserve, and the market takes care of the rest. You can, however, control how much trust your bidders can place in you. In many professions, service providers go to school to add some significant letters to their names, such as Ph.D., M.D., J.D., or C.P.A. You can do the same in auction sales. Bob Kopczynski, who’s profiled later in this chapter, went to school andP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 92 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business became a licensed auctioneer. You don’t have to do that, yourself, but you can demonstrate that you know something about what you’re selling. You can ■ Operate a Web site or online store devoted to your area of interest. Bob Kopczynski, who goes by the User ID maxwellstreetmarket on eBay, also has a Maxwell Street Market Web site (http://www.maxwellstreet.market.com), shown next. ■ Moderate a discussion group (popularly called a newsgroup) devoted to what you buy or sell. It’s relatively easy to set up a newsgroup in the Alt category, though groups in other areas are difficult to establish and maintain. The Web page editor Microsoft FrontPage helps you set up a discussion group on your own Web site. ■ Answer questions on eBay’s message boards. ■ Answer questions in Internet newsgroups about your area of interest.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:21 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 93 If you have written any essays or books about the type of merchandise you typically sell, so much the better. Even if you don’t do any of the foregoing, you can still create an About Me Web page that tells visitors something about you and what you do, and your commitment to customer service as well. Here, too, Bob Kopczynski provides a good example. His About Me page (see Figure 4-1) is as extensive as they come; it includes a history of his eBay business, a link to his Web site, a list of employees, a phone number, and terms of sales. 4 FIGURE 4-1 An About Me page can be used to build your credibility as an eBay businessperson.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 94 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Prove You Are a Professional You can boost your sales if you are able to show people that you are professional in your manners and your behavior. Being professional doesn’t mean you need to sell on eBay full-time, or that you need to run your own online business. Rather, it has to do with how you communicate—how quickly and completely you respond to questions from bidders, how well you deal with problems, and how promptly and carefully you pack and ship what you sell. Be Honest, Be Thorough The more information you provide about your auction item, the better your chances of getting bids. Honesty is certainly the best policy when it comes to selling online in any venue, including eBay. At the very least, it lets buyers know about any defects or flaws your merchandise has before they even bid, so they won’t be surprised when they actually receive what they’ve purchased. Accuracy shows your customers that you are making every effort to be honest and up-front with them. Some sellers go into a lengthy bit of detail about defects in their sales items, especially for items that they know are desirable in and of themselves. Once again, you can look to Bob Kopczynski’s listings. The description shown in Figure 1-2 is honest about defects, but plays up the parts of the package that are in exceptionally good condition, too. Keep in mind that many of the individuals who buy your eBay items are professionals themselves. Often, they’re longtime collectors or antique dealers who hope to resell your wares in their own stores. You can’t fool people who are “in the trade,” nor should you try to. Attract Bids with Information The more information you include with your auction descriptions, the more likely you are to make a sale. That doesn’t mean you have to spend acres of valuable computer screen real estate getting around to the point. You need to state, in the very first sentence, what it is you are selling and what qualities make this item stand out from the crowd. Be sure to mention that it is a one-of-a-kind piece, in perfect condition, or in a rare color. Try to get a one- or two-word mention of the item’s most desirable quality in the auction title, if you can. Auction bidders are in a hurry. They might only stop in at your sale for a short period of time before moving on to your competitors’ wares. Suppose you’re trying to sell something that might not seem desirable at first, like a pair of usedP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 95 4 FIGURE 4-2 Don’t be reluctant to describe any defects, so purchasers won’t be surprised. sneakers. How, you ask, could you make sneakers seem attractive? Here are a few suggestions: ■ Lead with a hook Hook your bidders’ attention with some quick statements that show why your item is exceptional, such as “Rare 1967 Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars, Size 12.” ■ Be a historian Describe your item’s provenance—which, in auction-speak, means the history or origin of an item. Tell where you got the object, how old it is, who used it, and so on: “These classic high-top Chuck Taylors, in the hard-to-find red color, had only one owner—the seller’s cousin. They show very little wear and even come in the original box.”P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:22 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 96 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Don’t overlook the downside Once you’ve gotten everyone interested by gushing about the item’s good points, be sure to avoid surprises or misunderstandings by describing any problems: “Although thoroughly dry cleaned, a subtle basketball odor remains. Some wear on right heel; laces have been replaced.” ■ Finish on a high note Don’t end on a problem note; provide a closing sentence that reminds people why they should be buying this wonderful item. You might even provide a note about payment options or shipping costs, or restrictions (you don’t take personal checks, or you won’t ship overseas, for instance). You’ll find some of these approaches in the brief sales description shown next. Notice how the description starts with a good mention, then describes some flaws (“brassing” means the gold overlay has worn off), then finishes on a positive note.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:23 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 97 Throw in a Lagniappe When I was in New Orleans, I went to some garage sales in the French Quarter and became acquainted with the wonderful local custom of the lagniappe (pronounced “lan-yap”)—something extra that’s thrown in along with the sale. Nothing builds goodwill with your customers like an extra touch you can add to your item(s) when you ship them out. At least one of the sellers I interviewed, Don Colclough (who appears in 4 Chapter 5), occasionally adds an extra item if one is available. “Sometimes we will sell a set of six glasses,” he told me. “You can only sell them in groups of six. Even if you have seven of them, people just won’t bid if you try to sell them all. If we sell a set of six, we will throw the seventh one in for free.” If you sell dozens or even hundreds of items at a time, it might be impractical to throw in an extra gift with every sale. But if you can, consider doing so. You’ll go a long way toward keeping your customers happy—not to mention getting some glowing feedback. Attempts to get attention for auction listings by using the @@@ or !!!! keys multiple times are overused. I don’t think they grab anyone’s “eye space” because so many others use them. Let your description speak for itself. Build Your Volume What does it mean to build a lot of sales? How do people build the volume that enables them to earn a steady income on eBay? You can find indications on eBay itself. Just find a seller you regard highly who has a high feedback rating, and look up the sales that have been conducted recently by that seller. For instance, to look up the completed sales by Bob Kopczynski, do the following: 1. Go to the eBay Basic Search page (http://pages.ebay.com/search/items/ basicsearch.html). 2. Click By Seller. 3. Enter the seller’s User ID (maxwellstreetmarket) in the Single Seller box. 4. Next to “Include completed items,” click the button next to the option that describes the number of auction sales you want to retrieve: Last Day, Last 2 Days, Last Week, Last 2 Weeks, or All.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpFriday, May 09, 2003 11:22:54 AM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 98 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business 5. Click the Search button. You are presented with a list of auctions recently completed by this busy seller, as shown here: For instance, when I checked Bob’s sales, I found that he completed anywhere from 20 to more than 50 sales per day. Most of these sales attracted bids; a few ended without attracting any bids, as indicated in Table 4-1. Get Help from Family and Friends Very few of the auction sellers I know who sell on eBay frequently do the work all themselves. Often, two people divide up the tasks: the buying, the carrying, the photography, the publishing, the shipping, and the bookkeeping. Date Sales Completed That Day Sales with No Bids 2/14/03 26 3 2/15/03 21 1 2/16/03 34 11 2/17/03 52 7 TABLE 4-1 Bob Kopczynski’s Sales RecordP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpFriday, May 09, 2003 11:24:05 AM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 99 The moment you start to think in terms of selling hundreds or even thousands of items each year, you’ve got to think about getting assistance. Look first to your family: enlist your kids, your brothers and sisters, anyone who has time and is willing to help. Many sellers employ neighbors or college students who are home for summer vacation. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Distributing your work load will keep you able to ship purchased items out quickly and enable you to remain courteous with your customers. 4 Use an Auction Manager When you’re trying to sell multiple items at once, it can be invaluable to enlist the help of an auction service: a business that assumes the responsibilities of managing your auctions for you. A program like Auction Helper (http://www.auctionhelper .com) sends notices and invoices to high bidders and maintains records of your sales so you can add up totals at tax time. You can find out more about using such services in Chapter 6. The eBay Services: Buying and Selling Tools page (http://pages.ebay.com/ services/buyandsell/index.html) contains links to services that can help manage your sales, such as Selling Manager. UK Auction Help (http://www.ukauctionhelp.co.uk/sitemap.php) provides a Web page full of tips for auction buyers and sellers alike, including suggestions on how to manage auctions and build volume. Schedule Your Sales Experienced sellers know that, if you have an especially desirable item, it’s likely to sell no matter when the auction ends. However, they also know that auctions that end when the majority of bidders are available are more likely to gain the highest prices. Here are some suggestions for when to schedule your auctions: ■ Sales that end on weekends are more likely to get bids because many more bidders have the time to shop. ■ Sales that end on Sundays—particularly, Sunday nights—tend to get more attention at the end of the sale. ■ Some sellers start sales on Thursdays and schedule them to last for ten days: that way, they’ll end on a Sunday, and bidders will have two weekends to shop and place bids.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 100 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Beware of any holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day that might take place near the end of your sale: people who are traveling won’t be able to bid, and you might not get as much attention for what you’re selling. Be sure not to end the sale at a time when eBay is down for maintenance. Frequently, eBay goes offline around 3 A.M. PST on Friday mornings. (You’ll find announcements of such system shutdowns at http://www2.ebay.com/aw/ announce.shtml.) If you attempt to end your sale then (this is more likely for overseas users than those in the United States), you should get a notice from eBay advising you to pick another time. Instead, you should be aware of the occasional maintenance and avoid Friday morning endings. eBay Bestsellers Recapturing the Spirit of the Chicago Entrepreneur Chicago, which is my home town, has a rich history as a center for manufacturing and commerce. Those of us who love to buy and sell treasures of all sorts benefit from that history. We fondly remember a place called the Maxwell Street Market, a huge open-air flea market where you could find virtually anything for sale, and which lives on in a smaller (not to mention cleaner) form every Sunday morning. As a child, Bob Kopczynski used to visit Maxwell Street with his father. Today, he and his wife Katy keep a little bit of Chicago history alive with his eBay business, which goes by the User ID of maxwellstreetmarket. Bob, who works full-time as a construction manager and runs his eBay business in his off-hours, first became interested in eBay when he was looking for computer equipment and souvenirs related to the rock group Van Halen. Then, on a whim, he decided to sell a pair of tickets he had to the original Woodstock music festival held in 1969. “I said to myself, I’ll put ‘em for sale up there on eBay, and we’ll just see what happens.” Bob was immediately clued in to the promise of selling eBay when the tickets, which normally would have sold for $30 or $40, fetched a whopping $150 online. He convinced his wife Katy to start selling on eBay, put up $250 to get started, and the rest is history. “When Don (Don Colclough, who is profiled in Chapter 5) and I started out, we were ridiculed,” laughs Bob. “People thought we were crazy.” Today, maxwellstreetmarket is very much an eBay business. Katy left her job as a schoolteacher three years ago. Now she works full-time at the business,P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 101 handling bookkeeping and answering questions from buyers. Bob handles purchasing by scouring estate sales and flea markets and does photography. A neighbor, Nancy Armstrong, makes sure the sales go online. At least five Kopczynski family members help with crating, packing, cleaning, and the many other duties that are required to sell anywhere from 20 to 50 items per day on eBay. The business has expanded along with the Kopczynskis’ suburban Chicago 4 home. First, Bob and Katy worked out of their basement. They made enough on eBay to build a pool and a deck. Then they had to build a garage just so they could store their eBay inventory (Bob calls it “the garage that eBay built”). Now, they rent warehouse space in several locations. The Kopczynskis put a premium on credibility and customer service. They have built a steady income by putting customers first. “I have a goal to make people feel comfortable,” Bob explains. “Eighty percent of people are still not comfortable with buying online, even though they love auctions. The big hurdle is, why would I send someone I don’t know money? I set a goal to become a licensed state auctioneer; I have to take classes and pay $500 every year to keep my license. I sometimes do auction off high-end items like cars or boats on site, but 99 percent of my auction business is on eBay. I mention that I am a licensed auctioneer in my eBay listings, and I think that tells people they can rely on me. It’s well worth the expense because it tells people I am well established.” The family’s eBay operation is a business in many other ways. For one thing, it’s part of KMK Management Co., Inc., Auctioneers and Estate Liquidators, a company of which Bob is President and CEO. Bob says one reason he decided to incorporate was liability; the corporation has limited liability if a customer decides to sue for some reason. “I pay a CPA to do our taxes, we do collect sales tax charged to Illinois residents. Besides that, we pay our employees’ payroll taxes, too.” The businesslike emphasis pays off in customer relations. Bob and Katy don’t run into too many deadbeat bidders. They estimate that only two to three percent of their customers fail to follow through with sales. More than 99 percent of the feedback they receive is positive. When they do run into problems with customers, they don’t make a big deal about it. “We’re not going to chase you if you don’t pay us. We’ll send you a couple of reminders, and then we tell eBay to pursue you. Then, we just wait 10 or 14 days and relist it.” The matter-of-fact approach to the business applies to sales, too. Bob has a policy of selling everything on a no-reserve basis—even highly desirable itemsP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 102 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business for which he may have paid $100 or more. “I’ll put up a Tiffany lamp at a starting bid of $1.99 with no reserve. Almost all of our auctions are conducted that way. The no-reserve policy quickly eliminates competition that sets an opening bid. My items tend to sell higher than ones with a reserve. Personally, when I’m shopping on eBay, I pass up any auction that has a reserve. You don’t always get your cost back. You don’t always make money on everything you sell. But it’s a matter of volume and turnover—that’s what counts. If you pay $200 for something and if it sits on a shelf for six or eight months, it’s no good. Volume is the magic—better to get the money quickly and build up lots of sales.” Bob doesn’t specialize in one particular type of item, although he personally collects vintage toys, radios, and musical instruments. He says he is “continually surprised by how much some things will bring. We even sell empty toy boxes— people who know what they are and who collect toys will pay for them.” Bob estimates, in fact, that a high percentage of his own customers are antique and collectible dealers who buy on eBay and resell items in their own brick-and-mortar stores. “I would like to have 90 percent collectors and dealers as my customers because they will pay a higher price, and they’re not likely to turn out to be deadbeats.” In order to turn around 600 to 700 items a month, Bob uses an auction management service called Auction Helper (http://www.auctionhelper.com). “The auction management service does the shipping. They send an e-mail to the high bidder that says, “Click here to get your invoice and your seller’s address.” The buyer has a printable invoice with all of the details printed right on it.” Bob’s number one tip to would-be eBay businesspeople? “Don’t get hung up on making a ton of money on every single item,” he says. “You have to let it go. Not everybody makes money on every investment. If you had brick and mortar store stuff, you’d run into losses too—something might get damaged, or your employees might take stuff. It’s the same on eBay. You just have to let it go and move on to other sales.” Be Community-Minded Why has eBay continued to grow and prosper while other online auction sites (not to mention a host of e-commerce retailers) have gone to that great Recycle Bin in the sky? It’s not the ups and downs of the economy, which are always present. It’s because of the strength of eBay’s user community, and eBay’s ability to build that community.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 103 The eBay Community isn’t simply a place where you can submit feedback and view feedback of other users. It’s the best way (along with books like this) to get inside information from other experienced sellers—tips you’d need weeks or months to learn otherwise. You can also find out who your competition is by talking to other users and searching the message boards—and devise ways to stand out from the crowd—by being a group participant. Share Information 4 You learn a lot about selling on eBay by talking to the entrepreneurs who already sell there. That might sound obvious, but working at a computer tends to be a solitary operation. (I’m speaking from experience.) After a few successful sales, you think you can do it all yourself, without anyone else’s help. You are likely to be cured of this notion the moment you scan the current messages on the eBay Café or on the product-specific message boards. You’ll regularly find such seller-specific questions as “What do I do about this deadbeat bidder who…,” “My bidder showed up and refused to pay for the ___ when he saw it,” or “How do you handle 40 or 50 sales per week?” In many ways, the best source of information about specific problems or situations you encounter on eBay is by consulting your fellow eBay users. You might also encounter eBay sellers while waiting in line at an estate sale, or in a crowd at an auction. Consider creating a name tag that says “eBay User” instead of your “real” name. Wear it to sales events such as auctions or flea markets. You just might meet some fellow eBayers with whom you can share tips and experiences. Know Your Competition Why is it that when a gas station appears on one corner of a busy intersection, another one appears right across the street? They don’t necessarily take business away from each other. In fact, they tend to draw people to the same area, and both outlets get more business than they otherwise would. It’s the same with auctions. Sure, you’ll see others selling the same things you are in the same categories. Be happy for the crowded activity. If you were all alone in a category, would you get as many bids? Probably not. How many times have you seen pages full of the same kinds of sales items, often with nearly identical descriptions? It can be instructive to look at how the sales are presented and to analyze which get the most bids—or any bids at all. For example, many vintage gloves go up for auction without getting any bids. Which of the listings in Figure 1-3 would you investigate if you were a buyer?P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:32:31 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 104 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 4-3 Study other sales and try to learn sellers’ “trade secrets.” This isn’t a scientific analysis by any means, but the gloves up for auction like those shown in Figure 4-3 seem to get bids if they have a good thumbnail photo next to them, and if descriptive words are included in the brief auction title such as “Sexy” or “Red Hot.” Another benefit of visiting the message boards on a daily basis is getting to know other sellers. It also pays to scout around the other sales in your area of interest after your sales go online, not only to make sure your sales are presented correctly and all of your images appear clearly, but to know if anyone is selling the same things you sell—and doing a better job of it than you are. Relax, It’s Only a Sale When you begin to think in terms of making hundreds of sales rather than individual sales, and of selling on eBay for years to come rather than on a week-to-week basis,P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:25 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 105 you don’t take each sale so seriously. You’ll benefit in the long run by not getting bogged down in problems and details, as described in the sections that follow. Shed Your Reserve (Price, That Is) You probably know from your own eBay buying that “no reserve” (usually designated NR) auctions get more attention than those with a reserve. Does that mean you should sell everything without a reserve? Different sellers take different approaches. When 4 you’re starting out, your impulse is to protect your investment with a reserve price on all your sales. Many sellers go no reserve for all sales except their most expensive. When my mother asked me to sell some of her antiques at auction, she insisted that I put a reserve price on them so she could be sure to recover what she had originally paid for the goodies. However, when you’re dealing in volume and turning your eBay sales activities into a business, it only makes sense to go with no reserve as often as possible— that is, for all sales except those items for which you originally paid a substantial amount. Time and time again, auction sellers have told me that they get the most interest and the highest prices for items that they offered for little or no reserve. I once wrote about a woman who found a depression glass coaster at the bottom of an auction box full of other items. In other words, it cost her almost nothing. She put a reserve of $10 on it and an initial bid of $1. She ended up with more than 20 bids and the glass sold for more than $200. Control When Your Auction Ends Suppose that valuable porcelain lamp you just put up for sale takes a tumble off the shelf and shatters in bits on the concrete floor of your basement? Suppose your aunt, who gave you that painting to sell, suddenly decides to donate it to an art museum instead? In such cases you can cancel your sale. eBay provides you with a form that allows you to explain the reason for ending the sale early. The form lets you choose between canceling all bids or selling to the high bidder and canceling all other bids. After you fill out the form, an e-mail message is automatically sent to any bidders explaining that the sale was ended early. On the other hand, you can also extend the end of your auction—if your item has not yet received any bids. Sometimes, when sellers conduct a three-day auction and their item does not receive any bids during those three days, they extend the auction one day. The moment a bid comes in, the auction must either end at the currently advertised time, or you must cancel it. Some sellers will list for 3 days,P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:25 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 106 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business and if they get no bidders will extend the duration one increment at a time until they reach 10 days (this is done via the item revision link on the description page). Control Your Emotions You’re bound to run into problems during your time as an eBay businessperson. Someone will e-mail you and leave negative feedback because they’re not happy with what they purchased. Or the item you sent got lost or delayed in transit and your customer is understandably displeased. What’s the best way to respond to such problems? Longtime sellers know it’s best not to get emotionally involved. Even though you are involved in a person-to-person sale, this is a business transaction. Keep cordial at all times when you’re communicating with someone who is unhappy. File a complaint in the Rules & Safety Support area (http://pages.ebay.com/help/ basics/select-RS.html) and let eBay pursue those bidders who turn out to be deadbeats. Other than that, try to resolve disputes yourself in an effort to avoid negative feedback. Consider coming up with a stock response when you run into an unhappy camper. That way, bidders will get some money back, you keep your positive feedback, and you dodge a dispute: My Auction Company, Inc., puts costumer service first and is committed to keeping you happy. If you are unhappy with what you have purchased, we will refund your purchase, less a shipping fee. You can’t give a refund to everyone who complains, of course—nor should you. I’m only saying that sometimes, it’s better to resolve disputes yourself and write off a moderate financial loss once in a while. You can cancel someone’s bid if you notice that they have received substantial amounts of negative feedback and have not followed through with other sales. If a bidder contacts you and asks to be taken out of the sale, or if he or she is located overseas and your description clearly states you will not ship overseas, you can also cancel a bid. When you do so, you should e-mail the individual to explain the reason for the cancellation. The bid cancellation form is located at http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/ seller-cancel-bid.html. Resell Items When You Need To If something doesn’t attract any bids, or you had to cancel your auction early, or the bidders didn’t meet your reserve price, simply wait a week or so and then relistP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:26 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 107 the item. You can relist by returning to the completed auction page and clicking the link Relist item. You get a small bonus the first time you relist: If your item sells the second time around, eBay refunds you the Insertion Fee. If it doesn’t sell the second time, however, you will have to pay the Insertion Fee. Don’t simply repeat the original auction description when you relist something. Look around at other eBay sales descriptions of similar items and try to identify some adjectives that might generate excitement, or add 4 some phrases that suggest how people might be able to use what you are trying to sell. Consider going no reserve, or lowering the opening bid price when you relist. Buy Strategically So You Can Resell Once you’ve got the routine of selling down to a regular system, the big challenge isn’t actually making sales on eBay. Rather, the challenge is finding merchandise you can resell. Many of the sellers I spoke to spend a considerable amount of time each week gathering merchandise at garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, auctions— wherever they can find it. As anyone who has tried to make a purchase at a conducted sale (a sale of someone’s possessions that is conducted by a professional dealer rather than the homeowner) knows, such sales are likely to have great bargains, but the competition for them is fierce. Often, you have to stand in line for hours before the sale opens just so you can have a chance at finding treasures. If a sale opens at 9 A.M., for instance, you might have to get in line at 6 A.M., 5 A.M. … who knows? There aren’t many tricks to obtaining inventory you can resell online. It requires a lot of commitment and “sweat equity.” Here are a few suggestions I’ve discovered in my own bargain hunting over the years and from talking to eBay sellers: ■ Don’t do it alone If you work as a team, you can find more merchandise than you could alone. You’ll also have help hauling away what you buy. Some sellers hire college students to go to sales before the sun is up and wait in line for them; they show up at a more reasonable hour, ready for the hunt. ■ Buy off-season Often, resale shops have plenty of winter clothes in spring and fall, and summer clothes in winter, for the simple reason that most people don’t need them at that time. Buy off-season and store your inventory so you can sell it at a time when most of your customers will actually want it.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:26 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 108 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Become a dealer yourself If you become a licensed auction seller or if you are an antique dealer, put out advertisements suggesting that people who are retiring or moving out have you conduct their house sale. You never know—you might be able to find a bargain or two for yourself. ■ Try dollar stores One of the most interesting trends in the world of bargain hunting is the proliferation of stores that sell all, or most, of their wares for a dollar of less. All too often, the shelves are full of junk, but once in a while, you can find pop culture memorabilia or good books you can pick up for a bargain. ■ Join a warehouse club Costco, Sam’s Club, and other warehouse stores deal in volume; sometimes you can find DVDs or computer games at two-for-one promotions at these brick-and-mortar discount warehouses. ■ Look for bargains online Some discount outlets hold their own online auctions, and you should definitely check them out. The Sam’s Club auction page shown in Figure 4-4 (http://auctions.samsclub.com) is a great place to find bargains you can resell on eBay. You can shop online at Costco (http://www.costco.com) and at other bargain outlets like the 99¢ Only stores Web site (http://www.99only.com). Know when the garbage pickup days are for your own neighborhood and any neighborhoods where people who are well-off live. Be sure you start scouring alleys either the night before or early in the morning on garbage day. I, personally, am not above “garbage picking” or “dumpster diving” in order to uncover bargains that others are discarding. For a primer on this popular activity, read the online diary “Dumpster diving: an Introduction” at http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/1/29/215523/088. Drum Up Some Free Advertising Everyone who sells online needs to drum up business by doing some form of marketing and advertising. By choosing to sell on eBay, you take a big step toward getting lots of attention for you and your merchandise. You can go even further by marketing your eBay sales. For example, you might include links to your eBay Store, your About Me page, or to a specific sale in a posting you leave in an Internet newsgroup that’s related to what you are selling. That’s how I first found out eBay ever existed, back in the mid-1990s. I subscribed to a newsgroup for individuals who collect and sell antiqueP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen CHAPTER 4: Tips and Strategies for Online Sellers 109 4 FIGURE 4-4 Shop online at warehouse clubs to find bargains you can resell. fountain pens. In the course of reading postings, I frequently saw listings by dealers that contained links to pens they had up for auction on eBay. I clicked one of the links, and instantly became an eBay junkie. Link to Your Web Site, and Vice Versa If you have a Web site, whether it catalogs the members of your family or the items your business has for sale, use it to promote your eBay auction listings. Selling on eBay is a remarkably personal activity. Buyers remember sellers, and if they have a good experience with you, they are quite likely to check you and your sales out once in a while to see what you have to offer. Many eBay sellers include links to their eBay auctions on their Web sites, and their auction listings or eBay Stores/About Me pages include links back to their Web sites.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 4Composite Default screen 110 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business If you have a business card, include it with the items you ship out, and make sure it includes your Web site URL as well as your e-mail address and other contact information. Where to Find It ■ eBay Services: Buying and Selling Tools http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/index.html Links to services such as Selling Manger, and to pages where you can revise your item description, cancel an auction, cancel a bid, or relist an item. ■ UK Auction Help http://www.ukauctionhelp.co.uk/sitemap.php A Web page full of tips for auction buyers and sellers alike. ■ eBay System Announcements board http://www2.ebay.com/aw/announce.shtml Announcements of times when eBay will be offline for maintenance.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch04.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:24:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen blind folio 111 Spruce Up Chapter 5 Your Auction PresentationP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 112 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Create a sales template so you can produce multiple auctions quickly ■ Attract bids with descriptions that engage shoppers’ imaginations ■ Research your merchandise so you can describe it accurately ■ Check your spelling so you don’t look unprofessional ■ Take time with your presentation to build bidders’ interest ■ Format auction listings with HTML to grab more attention ■ Add a counter to your auction listing ■ Choose design templates with eBay Seller’s Assistant Unlike personal or family Web pages, auction listing pages aren’t primarily about you. They don’t need to be graphically eye-catching. You don’t need to impress anyone with your design sense or even your sense of coolness. Your primary goal is to induce people to bid—as often as possible—and to eventually make a sale. Yet, a few well-chosen words and some good images can make the difference between zero bids and a “Hot Match” icon, which signifies a sale that’s received avid attention. Auction listings are a little like personal ads in their presentation. You want to stand out from a crowd through good photos, quick descriptions, and a few choice words. You’re trying to get viewers to explore a little further by engaging their imaginations, by giving them just enough information to get them to discover a little more about what’s being advertised. You can also use your auction presentations to create an identity for your eBay business. Just as you try to build credibility through a good feedback rating and professional handling of sales, you can do it through your choice of colors, the name of your business, and a consistent presentation. This chapter examines ways to give your eBay auction pages some “razzamatazz” while streamlining the process of getting your auctions online. Create a Sales Template When you use eBay’s Sell Your Item form, you are essentially filling in the blanks. You’re putting standard information into a standard format so you can get the basic information online.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 113 There’s nothing wrong with using the Sell Your Item form to create an auction listing, but a successful eBay business is built on volume and efficiency. Suppose you get to the point where—like many of the sellers I profile in this book—you need to get 20, 30, or even more items online every day. If that’s the case, you need to come up with a system—or rather, a template. A template is commonly used to prepare a publication that appears periodically, such as a newspaper or a magazine. It’s a preformatted set of items that appears the same from issue to issue. A template saves time, and it lets readers know what to expect. After a while, they use the standard elements in the template to process information more quickly. 5 Many eBay sellers create an auction template in the form of a HyperText Markup Language (HTML) Web page. The template contains the name of their business (if they have one), their shipping and payment policies, and any other phrases that apply to all of their auctions. I’ve taken the liberty of altering one of the auction listings of eBay seller mrmodern, who is profiled in this chapter, and showing it in Figure 5-1. The beauty of a template is that your auction listing is actually half-complete before you even start. After you’ve taken your photos (see Chapter 8) and researched your item (see “Do Your Research” later in this chapter), simply paste the material that is unique to each sales item (the name, the description, and the links to images) into the template. You simply upload the pages, reopen their original template file, and paste in the descriptions that apply to the next sales item. eBay has a service called Seller’s Assistant that streamlines the process of creating templates. See “Use eBay Seller’s Assistant” later in this chapter for more information. In Figure 5-1, I’ve drawn a big X to mark the spot where the unique description and photos should appear in the template. mrmodern’s template has another formatting trick: it’s been formatted as an HTML table, a container that allows Web page contents to be arranged in the form of rows and columns. In this case, the table serves two functions. First, it keeps the auction listing at a fixed width so it’s easier to read; it takes up a single column in the middle of the page. Second, the table has been divided into two rows. The first row sets the MrModern logo apart from the text beneath it. Tables are useful ways to organize the contents of Web pages and gain some control over how they turn out. One of the first tutorials on HTML is still one of the best. Beginner’s Guide to HTML (http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/ HTMLPrimerAll.html) includes information on tables and how to use them to design Web pages.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 114 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business First row of table Second row of table Company logo Standard template contents Table border FIGURE 5-1 A template lets you create auctions quickly in “cookie cutter” fashion. Consider Getting Some Design Help The Web was made for do-it-yourselfers. You can publish your own photos, text, and Web pages in no time. But just because you can do something on your own doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. When you’re just starting out with an eBay business, it pays to spend a little time (and possibly a little money) designing a template. Since you’re going to be online for years, and you’re probably going to sell hundreds or perhaps even thousands of items, a few hundred dollars paid to a designer at the beginning will pay off in the long run. The single best investment you can make is the few hundred dollars it will probably cost to create a logo for your business. You can use it not only on your auction pages but on business cards and stationery you have made.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 115 It’s worth securing the services of a professional designer for this purpose. The designer can create a consistent look for your business that includes the look of your auction listings. The look of your logo and your use of color and other design elements can complement what you sell and tell people that you are committed not only to customer service, but to obtaining quality items. The Silk Road Trading Concern’s auction listings, one of which is shown in Figure 5-2, are a perfect example. The business name shown in Figure 5-2 is a textual logo. It’s difficult to create such a logo without the help of sophisticated graphics software like Adobe Photoshop (http://www.adobe.com). It might be difficult to tell from Figure 5-2, but each Silk Road auction listing has a background image that seems to “float” behind the 5 text and images. Such background images are another feature of HTML that you can use in your eBay auction listings. This particular auction listing uses an HTML table that the page designer has configured to have invisible borders for the layout, but it does include nice designs in each corner that are derived from the Tibetan “endless knot” design and that complement what’s being sold. A consistent, professional appearance like this has a direct bearing on how many bids you get. FIGURE 5-2 Your use of color and type can complement what you sell at auction.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 116 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Many of the graphic designers who advertise their services on the eBay- affiliated site eLance (http://www.elance.com) specialize in creating logos and developing graphic designs for businesses. Pick Standard Items Once you have come up with a “look and feel” for your auction listings—one that might include a background, colors, graphics, and a logo—you need to add the parts of the template that you want to be the same from listing to listing. In the world of publishing, this sort of content is called boilerplate. This text might include ■ The name of your business ■ Your shipping options ■ Your payment options ■ Your contact information ■ Any additional statements about your policies, such as money-back guarantees, not selling to first-time bidders, not shipping overseas, and so on. Create your listing and save it as a text document so you can simply copy and paste the contents from auction to auction. Your auction boilerplate might look like the following: Higher Grounds Coffee Collectibles for Cost-Conscious Collectors [REPLACE WITH AUCTION DESCRIPTION] Buyer to pay $7.50 for shipping via USPS Priority Mail. Ground shipping also available on request International customers will pay extra air mail shipping charges. Payment must be received within 10 days of auction closing. Money orders and personal checks accepted, but please note that checks take seven to ten days to clear before item will ship. We also accept BidPay and PayPal.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 117 Illinois residents will be responsible for an additional 8.75% sales tax. Feel free to e-mail us with questions. We will be happy to provide additional information as needed. If you decide to use HTML formatting to present your auction, include the necessary HTML commands (which are called tags) right in the body of the listing. (See “Using HTML to Dress Up Items” later in this chapter.) You can also use a program that gives you the option of editing the visible contents of Web pages as well as the HTML code, such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage. 5 Add the Description Once you have a template and boilerplate, you need to come up with what you might call the “silverplate” part of your listing: the actual description that applies to the merchandise itself. You do this by opening the Sell Your Item form: 1. From just about any part of the eBay site, click the Sell button in the navigation bar at the top of the page. 2. Sign in as a seller and create a seller account if you need to (see Chapter 3). 3. When the Sell Your Item form appears, fill it out. Paste your template into the Description box in the form (shown in Figure 5-3). Then add the details specific to the item you are listing, and put your sale online. You can use some tricks when you’re creating the contents of your description to make your sale more attractive to bidders, such as imaginative words and good images, as described in the sections that follow. Auction listings don’t have to be completely unique. Although it’s not a good idea to completely copy someone else’s description and paste it into your own listing, you can use good descriptions as a “starting point” for creating your own if you are tired or in a hurry. Auction descriptions, like other Web publications, are protected by copyright, as described in Chapter 18. However, the truth is that plenty of eBay sellers “reuse” one another’s descriptions as a shortcut even though it’s not technically correct. You can at least shop around other descriptions to get inspirations and tips for their own listings.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 118 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 5-3 Paste your auction template into the Description box in the Sell Your Item form. Fine-Tune Your Descriptions A picture may be worth a thousand words, and good images are perhaps the most important elements you can use to grab someone’s attention and get them to click that all-important Place Bid button. The way you describe your sales item is important, too. You can take a lesson here from the big, traditional auction houses such as Sotheby’s (whose online version, Sothebys.com, is described in detail in Chapter 15). Staff people at such institutions (or sellers who register as Sales Associates) often painstakingly research the history of what they’re selling and present detailed descriptions both in their sales catalogs and in their live auctions. An example is shown in Figure 5-4. The example in Figure 5-4 shows that descriptions don’t have to be long to be effective. Rather, a little background about what you’re selling and a few telling details count for a lot. Some ways to spice up your own descriptions are presentedP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 119 5 FIGURE 5-4 Some history and background on what you’re selling can attract bidders’ interest. in the sections that follow. All it takes is some research, some imagination, and some attention to detail. Do Your Research Occasionally, you’ll run into bidders who know far more about what you’re selling than you do. The merchandise practically sells itself because this is what your customers have been looking for. You might be able to sell an empty toy box for hundreds of dollars if it’s the box to a toy that someone needs to fill out his or her collection. Most often, though, your sales need a little “push” from you in the form of information. Information sells on eBay. Before you put something up for sale, do some research online and find out everything you can about what you’re selling. Tell people when the item was made, whether or not it is considered rare, and anything else you can uncover.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 120 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business The eBay seller mrmodern, who is profiled later in this chapter, told me he keeps one computer screen open to prepare his auction listings, and another open to the search service Google (http://www.google.com). While he creates his auction listings, he can find out details about what he’s selling and pass them along, as indicated earlier in Figure 5-4. Generate Excitement If you can generate some excitement among shoppers and get them to visualize how they might use or enjoy something, you’re more likely to gain bids. This isn’t just something that’s well known on eBay. Some online catalog sites (in particular, Lands End, http://www.landsend.com) let customers virtually “try on” clothing on a 3-D model they make of their own bodies. Put yourself in your bidders’ shoes (or gloves, as you’ll see in a moment), and encourage them to want to wear, use, or simply enjoy what you have to sell. Your goal as an auction seller is to capture, in a few sentences, what makes your object unique or interesting. I admit, you can’t do this for every single item you try to sell. (How exciting can you make a matched set of drawer handles, for instance?) But if you can pick a few choice descriptive words for some of your sales, you’ll do better overall. Suppose you turn up a set of old bathroom lights that you want to sell. How can you make them seem interesting? Here’s how mrmodern described them: Here is a great pair of Streamline Art Deco chrome and milk glass bathroom wall sconces. The lights are made to mount on either side of a mirror and each have an outlet on the bottom. The chrome backplates are 15” long by 2.5” wide. The milk glass tubes are 12” long by 2” in diameter. Both tubes have the chrome ring cap. Good chrome throughout...One tube is perfect, but the other has a chip and crack 1” up from the end. Turned to the back, the chip cannot be seen. Best bet is to have them shortened 1” so the chip and crack will be gone. The shades will still extend ¼” beyond the top edge of the backplate...Either way they are a great pair or original 1930s wall lights. The thing I notice about this description is that some effort has been put into suggesting how the lights can be used, what can be done with them, and where they might go in a house. It’s not just a straight description of what the items are and how big they are. When I last looked, the lights had attracted a bid of $101.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:47 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 121 Use Your Dictionary Buyers on eBay are often wary of sellers to begin with. Unless they know you and trust you, they might doubt that they can rely on you to follow through on your end of the deal. Anything you can do to make yourself look more professional helps your chances of getting more bids. For that reason, you should spell check your auction descriptions before you put your sale online. You might even have a Web browser window open to the dictionary Web site, Dictionary.com (shown in Figure 5-5), so you can look up troublesome words while you are doing the work. Check your spelling. There’s another, more obvious reason for checking your spelling before your 5 sale goes online: you don’t want to get facts and figures wrong. You don’t want to turn $250 into $2500 or 25$0, for instance. A spell-checker won’t catch a numerical FIGURE 5-5 If you don’t check your spelling, you might appear unprofessional or careless.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:47 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 122 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business error like this, so there’s no substitute for proofreading your description carefully before it goes online. Read it out loud so you can slow down and catch errors more easily. Using HTML to Dress Up Items Part of calling attention to your auction items is the ability to direct the eyes of busy, hurried shoppers toward the most important parts of your sales descriptions. That’s where HTML comes in. HTML is the set of commands that’s used to format all of the pages you enjoy not only on eBay but on the rest of the World Wide Web. By using HTML to format headings in bold or large type, you can call attention to the name of an item or an especially important feature, such as its age or condition. To get HTML formatting in your auction descriptions, you simply type the HTML commands in the Description box in the same Sell Your Item form you use to create your auction. If you use a template to present lots of auction listings, you can format the template using HTML and paste it into the same form. In that case, it’s a good idea to save the template as a text file with the HTML commands’ includes, so you can copy the contents and paste them into the form. An example is shown in Figure 5-6. eBay’s Help page that describes how to use HTML in auction listings is located at http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/html_tips.html. FIGURE 5-6 Save your template in text format so you can copy and paste the contents.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:47 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 123 HTML: The One-Minute Version This isn’t a book about HTML and formatting Web pages—there are many other books on those subjects, not to mention Web sites, tutorials, classes, and videotapes—so I’m not going to go into great detail on what HTML is or how to format a Web page using HTML. I will, however, give you a one-minute overview so you know what I’m talking about in this chapter. If you want to learn more about HTML, consult the 5 Osborne-McGraw Hill books HTML: A Beginner’s Guide, by Wendy Willard, How to Do Everything with HTML, by James Pence, or HTML: The Complete Reference, by Thomas Powell. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the set of commands (called tags) that are used to mark up text or images so they can be displayed on the Web. Using HTML commands, a Web browser will be able to display the following text as bold: <B>This text is bold.</B> The following text will be displayed in Heading 1 format: <h1>This is a Web page heading</H1> You can make a reference to a JPEG image using the following HTML so a Web browser can display it on your page: <IMG SRC="image.jpg"> How, exactly, do you create all these nifty HTML tags? You have two options: the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is to enter all the tags by typing them manually into a text document. This requires you to actually learn HTML, or at least, to copy the tags from a book or Web site and apply them to your own purposes. The easy way is to use a software program called a Web page editor. Such a program shields from having to create or actually see the HTML commandsP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:48 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 124 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business you create. Rather, you click buttons, choose menu options, and make use of other graphically friendly elements to format Web pages. Two of the best programs are Dreamweaver by Macromedia Inc. (http://www.macromedia.com) and Microsoft FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage). The problem with using such Web page editors, from the standpoint of eBay, is that you eventually have to look at the raw HTML commands when you paste them into the Sell Your Item form. Even if you create and format a nice template using one of these programs, you’ll need to choose a command such as View Source or View Code to view the HTML commands, copy them, and paste them into the auction description form. Of course, you don’t have to use HTML at all to format your auction listings. But if you want to create a business identity and stand out from the crowd, a little formatting is all you need. An easy-to-use and reliable program called Virtual Auction Ad Pro by Virtual Notions (http://www.virtualnotions.com) will also help you generate formatted auction ads without having to learn HTML. Making Your Auction Count with a Counter One of the most popular features that eBay sellers add to their auction listings (besides images and text, that is) is a counter—a utility that records the number of visits that are made to that auction listing. A counter sits on an auction page (or on any Web page) and records the number of times the page has been viewed. It doesn’t tell you who is viewing those pages, or whether each of the visits recorded is by a unique viewer. A counter that records 10 visits, for example, might only record visits by two individuals—one who has seen the page nine times and one who has visited just once. A counter that indicates to visitors that a page has been visited a high number of times indicates to people that there must be a lot of interest in the item, and suggests that they may want to place a bid themselves. On the other hand, if a counter has a low number, it may turn people away. If it has a high number of visits but just a handful of bids, it might even suggest that there’s something wrong with the item being sold— or that bidders are biding their time and preparing to bid at the very last minute. To my mind, counters only have limited value, whether on an auction page or a regular Web page. They’re more of a curiosity than a marketing tool. A type of counter that makes sense to me is a private counter—one that doesn’t actually appearP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:48 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 125 on the auction listing itself but is only visible to the auction seller. The easiest way to get either a private counter or a visible one is to choose an option from the counter options at the bottom of page 3 of the eBay Sell Your Item Form. Other private counters are available from a number of different sources, and many of them are free. Of course, you have to sign up with the auction service that provides you the counter, and that includes the one provided by ManageAuctions.com and shown in Figure 5-7. You can go a step further and install a counter provided by Andale.com that provides detailed information about when your auctions were viewed each day and how many times they were viewed . During the process of registering to use the 5 counters, you can uncheck a box so you won’t receive unsolicited e-mail from Andale.com. You can go to http://www.andale.com/corp/products/track.jsp to find out more about installing Andale.com’s counters. FIGURE 5-7 A private counter is only visible to the seller who installs it.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:48 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 126 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business CQ Counter, which comes in both a free version that requires banner ads to be displayed on your site or an ad-free version that costs $19.95 per year, goes a step beyond simply recording the number of times your page has been viewed. It reports on the sites that your visitors come from before they view your pages, how many times your pages have been reloaded, and the IP addresses (an identifying series of four numbers that is assigned to every computer connected to the Internet) of your visitors’ computers. Find out about it at http://cqcounter.com. eBay Bestsellers Making a Good Presentation Image is important to Don Colclough (eBay User Id: mrmodern). For one thing, he wants his eBay customers to know that he will solve any problems that arise, and that customer service is paramount to him. Don Colclaugh and Lisa Polito have gained control of their own lives through selling on eBay. They are able to set their own schedules thanks to their eBay business. They don’t have to commute to work; they can work on their own schedule; they run their own work space, too. “I’ve been selling on eBay since April 1999,” says Don. “By September of that year we had sold our antique store and moved out. It was beating a dead horse.” He and Lisa found a 3,000 square foot space in a former bank building in Oak Park, just west of Chicago, where they set up their full-time eBay business. That’s where the Don and Lisa store their inventory and work on their three- computer network, keeping a regular business routine even though they don’t work the conventional 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. schedule. “We go to work five days a week, from 1 P.M. to 9 P.M,” says Don. “Every day at 4 P.M. UPS picks up our outgoing shipments. At 4:30 I make a run to the post office. We mostly ship UPS because it’s simpler for the delivery guy to simply load everything on the truck. But for smaller items we use the post office. Then we take a break to eat. After that we work from 5:30 to 9 P.M., putting items up for sale on eBay. Lisa writes all the sales tickets and does all the paperwork. During the summer, we have young men in college who work for us and help us writing auctions.” Besides the time spent in their office-warehouse space, Don and Lisa, like many other eBay sellers, spent countless hours waiting outside estate sales and hauling home the treasures they’ve gathered. You have to run your eBay sales like a business in order to build volume, Don advises. “We closed 200 auctionsP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 127 this past month, and we have six months worth of inventory stored up at any one time. There are times when we buy an item at 7 o’clock in the morning and we have it up for sale that same afternoon.” The businesslike system applies to the way sales are presented online. Initially, Don developed a basic auction format with a standard choice of type fonts and colors, and standard statements about payment and shipping. Once the basic format was set, he and his coworkers only had to type up individual descriptions and paste them into the preset format. “When I write an auction, I am pretty cut and dried about it. I just give 5 the size, general condition, rarity. If it is something special, I will do a little research to find out some of the history of the item, and tell bidders something about it. When Lisa writes an auction, she caters to the Martha Stewart crowd, and she tends to be a bit more decorative and descriptive; she tells people how they might use a particular item. It stimulates the brain of the reader, and encourages them to make a bid.” Photos are an essential part of any auction description. “I’m not averse to putting 15 pictures online,” he says. “We keep photos pretty small, perhaps a quarter of the size of the average computer screen. We try to include a range of photos, showing every aspect of an item, from every angle.” Don and Lisa specialize in twentieth-century furnishings, household items, and collectibles of all sorts. He fondly recalls the unusual items he has sold— such as a prosthetic leg for $430—but the most unusual sale was that of a complete pharmacy. The pharmacy, which was located at Elston and California Avenues in Chicago, was sold by Don and his friend Bob Kopczynski (who is profiled in Chapter 4). “We sold the complete pharmacy for $13,000 to a man who was opening a gift store in Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” says Don. “It wasn’t a bad deal for him, considering that it might cost as much as $200,000 to outfit a complete store from scratch. We had to work back and forth a bit with the buyer to arrange the shipping; it cost $3500.” Don’s biggest tip to new eBay sellers is the importance of following through quickly when sales are completed. “Don’t delay the shipping. There’s no need to delay, especially when you use PayPal. Try to get the merchandise out the next day. People are often flabbergasted at how fast our shipping is. If someone sends us a personal check and we see that they have 500 feedbacks and they are all positive, we won’t wait until the check clears to ship, either.” It’s a strategy that’s kept the amount of negative feedback to a minimum (at this writing he and Lisa had 3,269 positive feedback comments and 26 negatives).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 128 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business In general, Don reports, all his dealings with eBay users tend to be positive— only two or three percent of his sales turn up deadbeat bidders. “First, give us the opportunity to resolve the problem. We will resolve it. We made a form that we include with every completed auction. It says, ‘We hope you are happy with your item. If you are not happy, here is our toll-free number—give us a call.’ We give them a money-back guarantee, too.” The high level of service has a direct result in repeat business “I know people check us every day to see what we put online,” he says happily. Use eBay Seller’s Assistant Many of the approaches to making your auctions stand out from the crowd that I’ve already described in this chapter are included in two utilities provided by eBay itself. These utilities, Seller’s Assistant Basic and Seller’s Assistant Pro, are designed to help you get your photos online and give your auction descriptions graphic interest. From the standpoint of graphic presentation, Seller’s Assistant Basic and Pro both provide you with a variety of templates you can use to present your sales items. Each template has its own graphic design. Unfortunately, you can’t get a look at these designs without subscribing to the monthly service. You can try out either the Basic or Pro versions free for 30 days, but after that eBay begins charging you ($4.99 per month for Basic and $15.99 for Pro) unless you cancel. Just follow these steps: 1. Go to the eBay Seller’s Assistant page (http://pages.ebay.com/sellers_ assistant/index.html) and click Subscribe Now. 2. When the Seller’s Assistant Subscription page appears, fill in your User ID (if necessary; it may already be filled in) and password, and click Sign In. 3. When the eBay Seller’s Assistant Subscription page appears, click Subscribe next to the version of Seller’s Assistant that you want. 4. Read the User Agreement, and then click I Accept. 5. Click Download Seller’s Assistant Basic (or Seller’s Assistant Pro, depending on the version you have chosen).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen CHAPTER 5: Spruce Up Your Auction Presentation 129 6. When the File Download box appears, click Open. The file downloads to your hard disk. 7. When download is complete, the InstallShield Wizard opens automatically. Follow the steps shown in the wizard to install Seller’s Assistant. 8. Start up Seller’s Assistant by clicking Start | Programs (All Programs on Windows XP) | eBay | Seller’s Assistant Basic. 9. When the License Agreement window appears, read the License Agreement, then click I Agree. You may have to insert your original Microsoft Office 5 CD-ROM in order to update the software. 10. The Seller’s Assistant program leads you through a series of initial setup tasks. When you’re done, the program window opens (see Figure 5-8). Click here to spell-check your description Choose a theme from this list FIGURE 5-8 Seller’s Assistant lets you choose a graphic theme and spell check your listings.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 5Composite Default screen 130 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Seller’s Assistant comes with a set of 20 built-in themes; you preview them by clicking the Edit button next to the drop-down list of themes in the Seller’s Assistant window. Seller’s Assistant Pro does carry a higher monthly fee than Seller’s Assistant Basic (which is deducted from your eBay seller’s account), but it provides you with some useful features that will make managing multiple auctions a lot easier, including the ability to track your inventory, print shipping labels, and create sales reports. These features are discussed in Chapter 6 along with other software that helps you manage multiple auctions. Where to Find It ■ ManageAuctions.com http://www.manageauctions.com A variety of useful services for auction sellers, including counters you can add to your sales pages. ■ Beginner’s Guide to HTML http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/ HTMLPrimerAll.html Basic tutorials and instructions on the most common HTML tags. ■ eBay Seller’s Assistant http://pages.ebay.com/sellers_assistant/index.html Links to eBay Seller’s Assistant Basic and Pro.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch05.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:46:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen blind folio 131 Manage Multiple Chapter 6 AuctionsP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 132 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Use eBay’s own software for managing and scheduling multiple auction listings ■ Automate eBay auction listings with third-party software you install yourself quickly ■ Use an auction service for better management ■ Track your eBay sales with eBay’s browser toolbar ■ Manage your eBay activities with a My eBay page ■ Use Seller’s Assistant to create multiple auction listings quickly Henry Ford knew the value of automation. So does the McDonald’s restaurant mega-chain. Once you get the hang of selling at auction, you’re likely to jump in the game with both feet and start to sell lots of items at once. As your eBay business grows and you can prepare sales more quickly, the more you’ll want to automate tasks that are repetitious. Why? The more time you save, the more sales you’ll be able to list, and the greater the revenue those sales can generate. At the same time, you’ll be able to focus on the parts of your eBay business that really interest you: creating and describing merchandise, finding merchandise you can sell, completing transactions, and other good things. This chapter discusses ways you can speed up your business and run it more efficiently so as to reduce stress at the same time you boost your productivity. You can automate the process of publishing photos online, keeping records of your sales income, and maintaining data about your sales. These are ambitious goals, but they are ones you need to shoot for if you want to make a steady living on eBay. Start with eBay’s Management Tools The logical place to start is with the tools eBay provides its own sellers, which are described in the following sections. If you need help or have questions, you can access the message boards for any of these software tools and get help from other users and eBay staff people who monitor discussions. eBay provides a variety of software options for creating groups of sales listings, formatting them with user-friendly design elements, tracking sales while they’reP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 133 online, and even sending automated e-mail responses and printing out labels in order to complete transactions in a more streamlined fashion. In fact, it can be somewhat confusing when it comes time to choose between the eBay sales tools because their functions overlap in some respects. Table 6-1 indicates what each of the tools discussed in this section does and why you might choose it. Tool Main Features Cost Pros and Cons Turbo Lets you create multiple Free You are required to have 20MB Lister listings and format them of disk space and at least 64MB without using HTML; you of RAM to run the Windows- can schedule listings to go online at specific times; you based software; you either have to download it or obtain a 6 can track your remaining CD-ROM version. inventory. Selling Enables you to relist items Free for first 30 You don’t have to download and Manager but not to create or upload days; $4.99 per install software; you access the new listings. Lets you track month thereafter service from eBay’s Web site. sales online, print labels, and It’s similar to Seller’s Assistant send preformatted e-mails. Basic, but includes relisting and label-printing features that Seller’s Assistant doesn’t have. Seller’s Provides you with 20 Free for 30 days; Very similar to Selling Manager, Assistant templates for designing sales $4.99 per month but you need to download and Basic listings; allows you to upload thereafter install the Windows-based listings in bulk. software, and you have the ability to upload sales auctions based on other sales. It will eventually be replaced by Selling Manager. Seller’s Enables you to create your Free for 30 days, Many of its features are provided Assistant own macros so you can repeat then $15.99 per more cheaply (or for free) by Pro a sequence of steps; leave month thereafter Turbo Lister or Selling Manager. automated feedback in bulk; use multiple User IDs. My eBay A Selling tab gives up-to-date Free A convenient place to track all information on sales that are of your sales in one location, pending, sales that are though you can’t perform any completed, and unsold items. management functions. TABLE 6-1 eBay Tools for Auction SellersP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 134 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Another bulk listing tool that’s been around on eBay for several years, Mister Lister, is being phased out at this writing. Mister Lister users are encouraged to use Turbo Lister instead. Speed Things Up with Turbo Lister Turbo Lister (http://pages.ebay.com/turbo_lister) is software that you download and install, and that eBay provides to sellers for free. It enables sellers to sell lots of items at the same time, and to design those sales by means of templates that enable them to format descriptions without having to know HTML. Finally, you can manage the items you create with Turbo Lister—scheduling them to all start and end at a specified time, or duplicate sales details so you can use them over if needed. Turbo Lister presents you with a wizard-like interface. A wizard is a set of screens or Web pages that leads you through a particular set of procedures. The Turbo Lister wizard should be familiar to anyone who has used the Sell Your Item form. Install and Use Turbo Lister 1. Start up Internet Explorer and go to the Turbo Lister Download page (http://pages.ebay.com/turbo_lister/download.html). 2. Click Web Setup. If a Security Warning dialog box appears, click Yes to proceed with the download. 3. After the Turbo Lister Setup application downloads, the InstallShield Wizard application opens. Follow the steps presented by the wizard to download the full set of Turbo Lister software. 4. Once installation is complete, The Turbo Lister application should open automatically, and the Welcome to Turbo Lister screen should appear, with the heading “What would you like to do?” 5. You could choose Open a sample Turbo Lister file to see how a finished file might look. For this example, choose “Set up a new Turbo Lister file,” then click Next.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 135 6. In the next screen, enter your eBay User ID and password, then click Next. 7. In the next screen, click Connect Now and Turbo Lister will connect eBay to retrieve your account information. Once your account information has been retrieved, click File | New | Item from the Turbo Lister menu bar to open Create a New Item wizard. 8. Choose the country you want to sell in, and choose a format for your sale—an auction, a store, or a real estate advertisement. Click Next. 9. Enter a title for your item in the Item Title drop-down list. 6 10. Either enter the category number, if you know it, in the Category box, or click Find Category.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:51 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 136 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business 11. Click the plus signs next to the categories in the Select a Category box to pick the category where you want to sell the item. 12. Click the Add/Change button in the Specifics section to enter item specifics if you want to. Then click OK.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:51 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 137 13. Click Next. The next screen of the wizard, which is entitled “Step 2 of 3 – Design Your Listing,” gives you something the Sell Your Item form doesn’t: a user-friendly HTML editor that enables you to choose a design template for your auction listing. Even if you don’t use Turbo Lister for bulk auction listings, it’s worth installing the software just to get this feature. In the Themes box on the left side of the screen, choose a design from the Themes list. In the Layout section, choose a layout for your item’s photos. You can specify that they appear to the left of the description, to the right, at the top, at the bottom, or as a series of images called a Slide Show. 6 14. Insert a photo by clicking the box labeled “Click Here to Insert a Picture.” In the Insert Picture – eBay Picture Services section, click the Look In drop-down menu to locate a photo on your hard disk that you want to include with the description. Click Insert to add the image. Then click in the text box (the box enclosed by dashed lines) to position the text cursor so you can type your item description or paste it from a text file. Click Preview to make sure your layout looks the way you want. Then click Next.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:51 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 138 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business 15. Click Next to open the “Step 3 of 3 – Format Specifics” page, where you add specific details about your listing such as the duration of the sale, the starting bid, and the reserve price. When you’re done, click Save. You return to the Turbo Lister main screen, where this auction and any others you have created are listed. 16. When you’re ready to start your sales, select them from the list and click Add to Upload. If you want to schedule your sales to go online automatically, select them, then click Schedule to start on, and enter a date or time. Turbo Lister is free to download and use. It’s the successor to a utility called Mister Lister that enabled eBay sellers to put dozens of auctions online at once. You can download the software directly from http://pages.ebay.com/ turbo_lister/download.html and find a full set of system requirements as well. The software does not work on Macintosh systems, however; it’s supported by Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, and XP. You need 20MB of hard disk space to use the software. If you’d rather use a CD-ROM to install the software rather than downloading the 18MB worth of files (perhaps you have a slow connection), you can obtain it for a $2.99 handling fee from eBay-o-rama, eBay’s online store (http://www.ebayorama.com).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:52 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 139 If you have questions about Turbo Lister or have problems using the software, check the Turbo Lister Discussion Board (http://forums.ebay.com/ forum.jsp?forum=34). You can see if someone else has encountered the same problem, or ask a question if you need help. Use eBay’s Selling Manager Turbo Lister is a terrific selling tool, but it does require some overhead—after all, you have to download and install the program so you can run it on your computer. Another sales management tool that eBay provides, Selling Manager, is one that you don’t download at all. Rather, you access it at http://pages.ebay.com/selling_ manager. You sign up to use the service free for 30 days; if you decide to keep 6 using the service, eBay charges you $4.99 per month. Selling Manager, like Turbo Lister, provides you with sales templates that you can use to design your auction listings. It also lets you schedule auctions and manage ones that are already online. You can even use it to print shipping labels or relist groups of items that you didn’t sell the first time around. eBay provides Turbo Lister so you can create groups of auction listings and get them online; it gives you Selling Manager so you can manage your sales once they’re online, and complete transactions in a more automated fashion. You can use Selling Manager to keep track of your sales on all areas of eBay except the fixed-price sales you list on Half.com (see Chapter 14). You need Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, Netscape Navigator 3.0 or later, or AOL Web browser 3.0 or later to use Selling Manager. However, because it’s a tool you access online rather than run on your own computer, you don’t need to worry about special memory and processing requirements. Selling Manager is built into another eBay feature that is normally of interest primarily to auction buyers—a starting page called My eBay that lets you track items you’ve bid on and items you’ve purchased. When you subscribe to Selling Manager, your My eBay page is given an additional section in which your pending auction listings are listed. Selling Manager also gives you seven preformatted e-mail messages that you can use to answer questions from prospective bidders and complete transactions after an auction ends. One thing to keep in mind is that the original My eBay page (which is free) already has a Selling tab that lets you track sales. I suggest that you try the free version of My eBay before you move up to Selling Manager, which is really useful only if you begin to sell dozens of items a month.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:52 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 140 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Create a My eBay Page My eBay is a useful tool that you can use whenever you’re buying or selling on the auction site. It’s a Web page that eBay provides to keep track of things you have bid on. There’s also a Selling tab that you can use to keep track of your current sales. My eBay isn’t something you have to set up or subscribe to use. Any time you want to access My eBay, click the my eBay link at the top of the eBay navigation bar that appears on just about every eBay page. A page like the one shown in Figure 6-1 appears. FIGURE 6-1 My eBay lets you track your sales and other auction activities online.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:53 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 141 Tabs and Links My eBay contains a variety of useful links to Web pages and utilities that can help you buy or sell more efficiently on eBay. The page is divided into six separate tabs, each with its own contents and options: Bidding/Watching; Selling; Favorites; Accounts; Feedback; and Preferences. A seventh tab, simply labeled All, presents all of your My eBay information on a single, information-packed page. The Selling tab gives you a place to track sales. It’s broken into three sections: Items I’ve Sold, Unsold Items, and Pending Items. You can change 6 the number displayed in the “Show Items for Past ___ Days” box to have the page present as few as two days’ worth of sales up to a maximum of 30 days. But My eBay only enables you to see what’s been sold, how many bids have been received, and so on. You can’t use the page to upload sales, schedule sales, or relist items. You need to use Turbo Lister or Seller’s Assistant to create and upload sales and Selling Manager or Seller’s Assistant to perform management functions. Many sellers make their My eBay page their home page—the page that appears when they first open their Web browser, and that appears when they click the Home button in the Internet Explorer toolbar. Open My eBay, select the URL in the Address box of your browser, and press CTRL-C to copy the URL to your clipboard. Choose Tools | Internet Options, make sure the General tab is selected, click in the Address box in the Home Page section, and press CTRL-V to paste the URL. (If you use Internet Explorer 6, you can simply click Use Current to make the currently displayed Web page your home page.) Click OK to make the page your home page.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:53 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 142 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business eBay Toolbar As I was writing this chapter, eBay was testing a trial version of eBay toolbar, a nice utility you can add to your browser toolbar. The toolbar’s features mostly help you search and track items you’re bidding on, not items you’re selling. However, you can click Watch Alert to alert you to the progress of any sale on eBay, including one of your own. Since, as a seller, you may very well shop on eBay, the toolbar can be useful for obtaining inventory, too. Once you download and install the toolbar by clicking on the Install Toolbar button on the eBay Toolbar page, a search box and set of options appear. You can find out more about the toolbar and download it at http://pages.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar. The eBay Toolbar only works with Windows 95 or later systems, not the Mac OS. It also requires you to have Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later or Netscape Navigator 4.08 or later installed.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:53 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 143 Use Seller’s Assistant Seller’s Assistant is software that enables you to create and manage your sales. At this writing, it comes in two versions, Basic and Pro. Seller’s Assistant Basic The Basic version’s features are mainly covered by a newer product, Selling Manager, which will eventually replace it. If you haven’t yet chosen any sales tool, I advise you to pick Turbo Lister and Selling Manager, which let you create and manage sales items with just about all of the functionality of Seller’s Assistant Basic. Frankly, I find the eBay’s selling software somewhat confusing, and because Selling Manager is now available, I think you should skip using Seller’s Assistant Basic because it’s 6 going to be phased out anyway. Seller’s Assistant Pro Seller’s Assistant Pro is a souped-up version of Seller’s Assistant that is designed for eBay sellers who sell all the time and need to automate tasks such as leaving feedback for many customers at once, or printing sales reports for tax purposes. These are two features the program performs that aren’t covered by the other eBay software mentioned earlier in this chapter. Here are some others: ■ You can create macros (a recorded series of steps that you perform on an application) so you can repeat just about any task you perform on eBay with your Web browser. ■ You can generate invoices for your customers. ■ You can automatically fill in feedback for your customers—not very personal, but a real time-saver. The question you need to ask yourself is this: do these advanced features make Seller’s Assistant Pro worth $15.99 a month? Is it also worth downloading the 20MB file and installing the program on your computer? One advantage of using Seller’s Assistant Pro (or Basic, for that matter) is the number of templates from which you can choose. Turbo Lister, the free software tool described earlier in this chapter, only provides you with about ten templates. The Seller’s Assistant packages come with 20 different designs (see Figure 6-2). Another advantage is the fact that both versions of Seller’s Assistant include a spell-checker so you can make sure your auction descriptions don’t contain any obvious typos.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:53 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 144 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 6-2 Seller’s Assistant gives you great flexibility in designing auction listings. If you don’t like a particular typeface or color that’s included with one of the Seller’s Assistant templates, you can always click the Edit button and customize a template so it looks just the way you want. You can find out more about both Seller’s Assistant Basic and Pro at http://pages.ebay.com/sellers_assistant/index.html. Find a Third-Party Auction Manager Not so long ago, you had to hire an outside auction management service to perform slick sales-type functions like sending out automated e-mail announcements to each of your high bidders after a sale ends, or scheduling your sales to go online while you’re not even at your computer. eBay has since come up with Turbo Lister and Selling Manager so advanced sellers can accomplish such automated tasks. Nevertheless, you still might want to install third-party software (software that’s made for managing eBay sales, but provided by a company other than eBay). Or youP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:54 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 145 might want to secure the services of a company that will manage your eBay sales for you so you can concentrate on answering e-mail, finding new inventory, or shipping out items you’ve sold. Both options are described in the sections that follow. Auction Software: Auction Wizard 2000 Auction Wizard was created by Standing Wave Software, Inc. in 1999 to handle the estate sale of a pair of Hollywood memorabilia collectors whose estate was being liquidated on eBay. A more full-featured version of that product, Auction Wizard 2000, was subsequently developed to help especially active eBay sellers manage their sales activities. In addition to giving you the ability to format auctions, send automated feedback, and upload multiple sales, the program is especially 6 strong in its ability to handle “back end” functions of an eBay operation, including: ■ Managing your inventory If you take the time to record each of the items in your warehouse or storage area, Auction Wizard will keep track of remaining inventory as items are sold. ■ Keeping tabs on income and expenses If you record your expenses and income in Auction Wizard’s interface, you enable the program to perform basic accounting functions that can prove helpful at tax time. ■ Printing invoices and reports Auction Wizard performs these tasks for a more affordable fee than eBay’s own Seller’s Assistant Pro. Auction Wizard 2000 also gives you the ability to import images from a variety of image formats and convert them to the standard Web image formats, GIF and JPEG. A built-in image editor lets you rotate, crop, and otherwise manipulate images so they appear in a compact format that doesn’t interfere with your description. You can even use Auction Wizard as a full-fledged Web page creation tool to create your own Web sites. Some Auction Wizard 2000 users are so satisfied with the program that they have started their own discussion boards to share tips about it and answer one another’s questions. It’s a great place to go if you want to learn about the pros and cons of the software from people who actually use it. One board, created by user Jacki Espino (eBay User ID katiebird), is located at http://pub83.ezboard.com/ bauctionwizarddiscussionboard. Jacki’s sales give you an idea of how Auction Wizard can be used to format listings on eBay (see Figure 6-3).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:54 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 146 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 6-3 Third-party auction software can help you format descriptions without having to learn HTML. Of course, Auction Wizard 2000 isn’t the only auction software in town. Other popular programs include: ■ AuctionSubmit (http://www.auctionsubmit.com) ■ AuctionTamer (http://www.auctiontamer.com) ■ eLister (http://www.blackmagik.com/elister.html), which is notable because it is designed to work specifically with the Macintosh operating system (version 8.5 or later) Find out more about Auction Wizard 2000 at http://www.auctionwizard2000.com. You can try the program out free for 60 days. After that, you must purchase a one-year license for $75. The license must be renewed each year for $50.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:55 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen CHAPTER 6: Manage Multiple Auctions 147 Auction Services A managed service is functionality that is provided online, and that you usually access by connecting to the service with a Web browser. Rather than having to download and install software that needs to be updated on a regular basis, you subscribe to the service for a monthly or yearly fee. It’s up to the service provider to update the software and make sure it works correctly. Managed auction services—companies that provide services online that you can use to create auction listings, get your sales on eBay, upload and store images, and manage sales—are even more plentiful than software programs. Such services give you a number of advantages: 6 ■ Image hosting After you post one item image online, eBay charges you for each subsequent image per item. By paying a flat monthly fee to a managed auction service, you can access its other auction features, including image hosting. In the long run, you can save money by using the outside service. ■ Auction statistics Some auction services report on statistics such as the number of visits your auctions have received in a particular day or even a specified hour in the day. They can tell you how much money your auctions have generated over the past several weeks. Auction services also perform the functions covered earlier in the discussion on Selling Manager, Turbo Lister, and Seller’s Assistant Pro, such as automated feedback, printing mailing labels for each sale, and leaving feedback automatically. The best-known auction management services are described in Table 6-2. Service URL Fees AuctionHelper http://www.auctionhelper.com 1.95% of gross sales ($0.15–$1.25 per item) plus a $0.02 eBay fee per each sold item Auctionworks http://www.auctionworks.com 2% of each sale ($0.10 minimum, no maximum) or hosting fees of $14.95 to $99.95 per month ManageAuctions.com http://www.manageauctions.com $0.06 per listing plus other charges ranging from $4.95 to $24.95 per month TABLE 6-2 Auction Management ServicesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:55 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 6Composite Default screen 148 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business You’ll find an extensive (though not comprehensive) list of managed auction services on the AuctionBytes web site (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/ pages/ams). You don’t need to hire an auction service if you have the time and energy to do the work yourself, of course. But I think it makes sense to use a managed auction service if you offer a substantial number of sales each month (perhaps 50 or more, though this is not a hard-and-fast rule) and you don’t have family or friends to help you create listings, send e-mails, and keep your accounting records. Where to Find It ■ Turbo Lister page http://pages.ebay.com/turbo_lister A page full of links that explain eBay’s Turbo Lister feature and provide the software for download. ■ eBay Selling Manager http://pages.ebay.com/selling_manager A page where you can learn about, and sign up for, a service that lets you automate relisting, e-mailing bidders, and completing transactions. ■ eBay Toolbar http://pages.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar/ A toolbar you can use to track sales and send alert notices at the end of a sale (including your own) ■ eBay Seller’s Assistant http://pages.ebay.com/sellers_assistant/index.html More eBay software tools for creating and managing auction listings.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch06.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 6:59:55 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen blind folio 149 Create Your Own Chapter 7 Web PagesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:23 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 150 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Tell buyers about yourself with an About Me page ■ Gather all of your sales in one place with an eBay Store ■ Create your own Web site with a free Web host ■ Rent Web space for free with your Internet Service Provider ■ Shoot the works with a full-featured Web hosting service account ■ Include the must-have features on your Web site One nice thing about eBay is that it allows you to start your own e-commerce business immediately, without having to build or stock a real brick-and-mortar store. But your eBay sales can be helped by the presence of a virtual store—a digital, text-and-image store on the World Wide Web. Chances are you’ve already got a Web page out there somewhere in cyberspace. Maybe you use it to talk about yourself and your hobbies, or to show off photos of your family or your pets. Well, you can also use the Web to talk about your business. You can create a simple Web page called an eBay Store that links to your current auctions. The eBay Store page, in turn, can list the URL of a full-fledged e-commerce site that enables shoppers to make purchases. The synergy that results from linking eBay auctions to an eBay Store or Web site can build credibility for your business and boost your sales, too. If you’ve already created auction listings and completed transactions with satisfied customers, you’ve done much of the work involved in creating a business Web site. You only need to take one more step: creating a set of Web pages devoted to your commercial activities. You’ve got plenty of options for creating pages: You can create a simple About Me page on eBay; create an eBay store; or launch your own full-fledged Web site. As an entrepreneur, you owe it to yourself to take the next step and create Web pages that boost your eBay sales even further. It’s not necessary to set up an eBay Web page or a full-fledged e-commerce Web site to back up your auction sales, of course. Plenty of successful sellers never set up a Web site at all; they let their sales descriptions and customer service do the talking. Starting up an e-commerce Web site makes sense if you already have a business operation and your eBay sales are intended to supplement it. It’s also a natural step forward if you are finding enough success on eBay that you want to sell through a Web site as well. Whether you want to set up another sales venueP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:23 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 151 through an eBay Store, or set up your own Web-based catalog and shopping cart, you can use your eBay auction experience as a starting point for further development. MeBay: Create an About Me Page If you sell on eBay, there’s really no excuse not to create an About Me page. It only takes a matter of minutes—in fact, it’s about as easy as creating your first auction listing. About Me is a feature that eBay offers to all of its participants and that promotes the community atmosphere that eBay is continually touting. eBay really does work by people getting to know and trust one another. By taking a little time to create a simple page that tells people a little about you, you increase the chances that people will bid on your merchandise. Not only that, but you get another cool icon placed to your User ID as it appears on your auctions. If shoppers click your “me” icon (see Figure 7-1) they’ll be taken directly 7 to your About Me page. As you can see in Figure 7-1, the seller known as silkroad—the Silk Road Trading Concern—has two links to Web pages: an About Me page and an eBay Stores page. Not only that, Silk Road has all the bases covered by running a Web site (http://www.silkroads.com). Each of these options is discussed in this chapter. Link to About Me page Links to eBay store FIGURE 7-1 Advertising your About Me pageP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:23 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 152 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Gather Your 411 The name About Me says it all: it’s a place where you talk all about you personally— why you use eBay, what you sell, what you’re interested in, or where you live. You can use an eBay Store or a Web site to focus on your business rather than your personal side. Of course, these aren’t firm dividing lines: You can use About Me to promote your business, and your eBay Store to promote yourself and your business. No matter how you make use of these resources, however, they are sure to help drive people to your auction listings and the all-important Submit Bid button. Before you start to create your About Me page, you just need to gather a little information. The amount of detail you provide depends on how active a seller you are, how many different kinds of items you sell or collect, and whether your page is about you personally or just about your auction activities. The best way to find out what to say on your About Me page is to search the About Me pages of other sellers. Unfortunately, there’s no eBay page that gathers all the About Me pages in one set of links (you’d probably have tens of thousands of links in one place, which wouldn’t necessarily be helpful). Rather, you find a seller who’s reputable and presents sales items in a professional manner, and click that seller’s About Me link. You’ll discover that typically, eBay sellers tend to include information such as: ■ The name of your business. ■ A mission statement: a few sentences that describe the purpose of your business, the type of merchandise you sell, and the kinds of customers you want to reach. ■ Your names and the names of your partners or employees. ■ Whether you sell on eBay full time and, if you don’t, what you do for your “day job.” ■ What makes your business distinctive or noteworthy. Don’t be bashful; promote yourself enthusiastically. Tell people that you are committed to providing quality merchandise, excellent customer service, and the like. ■ Your most recent feedback. ■ Your background. If you’re fortunate enough to have any honors, awards, or professional affiliations associated with your auction sales, by all means mention them.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:23 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 153 ■ A set of links to your current auctions. You might also include links to any other Web pages or Web sites you have created. ■ Contact information. Your Web site needs to list all the ways in which buyers or prospective customers can reach you if they have a question or need some information. You don’t need to publish your actual street address, of course; some eBay sellers prefer to use a post office box for extra security. But you should certainly include an e-mail address and possibly a phone number as well. That’s quite a list. Frankly, if you have any more to say, you should create an eBay Store or a Web site for yourself or your business. For now, just take a few minutes to think about and write down what you’re going to say. Jot down some biographical notes and have a friend look them over, or suggest additional tidbits 7 you can convey to the world. If you have more to tell the world about your hobbies, your family, your business history, or your thoughts about society in general, place a link on your About Me page that leads visitors to a Web page that contains more information. You’ll learn how to create such pages later in this chapter. Create Your Page When you’ve got your content in order, follow these steps to get your About Me page online: 1. Make sure you’re connected to the Internet, start up your Web browser of choice, and enter the URL http://members.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI .dll?AboutMeLogin to go to the About Me login page. 2. Read the instructions, then click Create and edit your page. 3. When the “About Me – Step 1” page appears, review the Web page layouts that are available to you. Then click the button next to the arrangement you want: Two column layout, Newspaper layout, or Centered Layout. The first two options are shown in Figure 7-2.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 154 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 7-2 Pick the About Me layout option that matches your range of subjects. You might choose the two column layout if you want to address a variety of different subjects, such as you, your family, your hobbies, and your business. The newspaper layout works well if you want to present various bits of information about the same topic (the different items you sell online, for instance). The centered arrangement is a good choice if your content—such as a brief description of your store—is short and sweet. 4. When the “About Me – Step 2” page appears, you fill out a form that helps create the contents for your page. Choose a title for your page and add some information in each of the boxes. Also select the option that indicates how many eBay feedback comments you want the page to contain. When you’re ready, click Preview Your Page to see your page and make sure it looks the way you want.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 155 5. If you don’t like your page’s layout, click Start Over to try one of the other two options. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want to delete by clicking Delete, and then you’ll return to the “About Me – Step 1” page, where you can pick a different layout. Otherwise, if you’re happy with your work, you can click Edit Some More, Save My Page, Edit Using HTML, or Start Over. Once you click Save My Page, your page goes on the Web where everyone can see it. The Silk Road Trading Concern’s About Me page is shown in Figure 7-3. Silk Road Trading Concern created an About Me page at the same time it created its eBay Stores page (see “Set Up Shop” later in this chapter). That’s why it has the Stores logo at the top. Most About Me pages don’t contain the Stores 7 FIGURE 7-3 An About Me page can actually be About My Store.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:24 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 156 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business logo. More typically, About Me gives an individual seller a place to talk about him or herself. Chad Gibbons’ About Me page is more typical. Typically, when you create an About Me page, you are assigned a URL that looks like the following: http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/[Your User ID]. You can refer to this URL in your Web pages or e-mail messages. Consider adding it to your e-mail signature file so people can find it more easily. Edit and Spruce Up Your Page Suppose you have created an About Me page and you want to make some changes. Perhaps you’ve changed the focus of your business or started to sell a new line of merchandise. Editing an About Me page used to be easy: you went to the About Me Login page and clicked Create and edit my page to retrieve your current page and edit it. Not any more. Now, you only have two options:P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:25 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 157 ■ Create a new About Me page from scratch ■ Edit the raw HTML for your current About Me page If you want to edit your About Me page, you’ll have to be subjected to looking at HTML code, which can be intimidating if you haven’t worked with it before. (I don’t understand why eBay doesn’t make this process easier for its members.) You go to the About Me Login page, click Create and edit your page and, when the page appears, click Edit some more. The HTML version of your page appears (see Figure 4). The nice thing about working with HTML is that you can do some spiffy formatting, such as adding images, creating headings and subheadings, and the like—provided you know what you’re doing. The bad thing about working with HTML is that, well, you have to work with it at all. You might just prefer to 7 re-create your page from scratch; save the contents as a text file beforehand so you can cut and paste when you want to remake it. FIGURE 7-4 To edit an existing About Me page, you have to work with HTML code.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:25 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 158 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Create an eBay Store Big-time retailers know that to maximize your income and reach the greatest number of customers, you need to sell in more than one way, using more than one type of sales technique. Auto dealers have known this for years. Look at all the ways you can purchase a new car: you can buy it outright; you can put down a down payment and finance the rest; you can lease it for a fixed period of time. You can go to an auto dealership, shop online, or visit a place where a number of auto dealers are gathered under one roof, called an auto mall. By marketing your products in a variety of ways, you attract the widest range of customers. In much the same way, you can supplement your eBay auctions with items you put up for sale for a fixed price in an eBay Store. Setting up an eBay Store is much the same as renting space in a shopping mall, but with two big advantages: eBay is likely to be cheaper, and likely to attract more shoppers than most other malls due to its sheer popularity. Shopping malls have never proved very successful on the Web. Early attempts at gathering shops under a single Web site umbrella so people can find them more easily just didn’t work. The Web makes it easy to find Web-based retailers through user- friendly search engines and easy-to-remember URLs like http://www.walmart.com. Only a few Web-based malls remain, such as MSN Marketplace (http://marketplace .msn.com, and Yahoo!Store (http://store.yahoo.com). Why, then, would you consider setting up an eBay Store in addition to your eBay auctions? I’ll give you three reasons: ■ eBay attracts more than 13 million visitors per month, according to Neilsen/ Netratings’ weekly Top 25 Parent Companies list (http://pm.netratings.com/ nnpm/owa/NRpublicreports.toppropertiesweekly). ■ You can drive regular buyers to your store with the Stores logo that appears next to your User ID. ■ The cost is only $9.95 per month for a basic subscription plus nominal listing fees. ■ If you really want to sell some items at a fixed price, and you find that Buy It Now doesn’t attract buyers, you might have better luck with an eBay Store. You need a minimum feedback of 20 and an ID Verify listing to open an eBay Store. See Chapter 16 for more on eBay’s ID Verify program. The following sections discuss each of these points in more detail.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:25 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 159 Save a Few Bucks To set up your own Web site with a hosting service might cost $50 a month or more. Even if you rent space in an online mall that gains a large number of visitors, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee as well as listing fees or fees charged for each item you sell. eBay Stores compare favorably to other malls as indicated, as far as the basic monthly hosting fee. But keep in mind that an eBay Store, unlike the other hosting options, doesn’t give you any ability to collect credit card payments from your customers. Table 7-1 gives a comparison of the fees for Yahoo!, Amazon, and eBay. Gain Eyeball Space The idea behind shopping malls, whether they are down the street or on the Web, is that they attract a higher number of visitors just because they gather multiple sales outlets under one roof. If you pick a marketplace that is particularly “sticky” 7 (in other words, that has enough resources and services that visitors tend to stay around for a while) you’re more likely to get shoppers. Attract Your Own Customers One advantage of setting up an eBay Store, to my mind, is that you do the marketing in many ways. If you build up a steady clientele through your regular auction sales, you stand a good chance of having those regular customers visit your eBay Store. The more bidders you attract to your auctions, the better your chances that someone will stop by your store. Do Buy It Now One Better Buy It Now has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it’s not a hidden price like a reserve price. You know exactly what the seller wants to charge for an item, and you can buy it immediately. Buy it Now is also highly popular and a good way to Store Host Monthly Rent Listing Fee Final Value Fee Yahoo!Store $49.95 $0.10 per item per month 5% (plus 3.5% for transactions that originate on Yahoo!) Amazon zShops $39.95 N/A $0.99 plus 15% of sales price (or 10% for electronics items) eBay Store $9.95 $0.05 per item 5.25% (for items priced at $25 (Basic Subscription) or less) TABLE 7-1 Comparison of Online Store OptionsP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:26 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 160 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business make sales. On the other hand, offering a Buy It Now price on something as well as the option to bid on that same item at auction is a contradiction, in my opinion: it contradicts the original purpose of the sale. People shop for auction items in the hope of getting a good deal. They want to save a few bucks, and they hope to find something unusual or rare at a good price. Buy It Now takes away the feeling that bidders are somehow “beating the system” by making them pay a set price that’s not necessarily as much of a bargain as an auction would be. At an eBay Store, people are shopping with a different set of criteria. Sure, they still want bargains, and they’ll never buy something if they feel like you’re overcharging them. But they’re primarily there because they are already familiar with you or your business, and they want to see what else you’re offering. If they are loyal to you and they feel they can trust you, they won’t mind paying a fixed price if they find something that’s really desirable. If you already sell at auction and have your auction sales gathered on your About Me page, there’s no reason why you can’t sell through an eBay Store as well. Silk Road Trading Concern has a number of items for sale through its store (see Figure 7-5). Of course, eBay Stores can help you reach new customers, not just people who have already purchased from you at auction. They might find your store on the eBay Stores home page (http://www.stores.ebay.com)—provided you pay $49.95 per month to get yourself placed in that prime real estate. What, you ask, is the downside to the rosy picture I’m painting? It’s the same as with any store: there’s no guarantee you’ll get enough business to make the store worthwhile, and it takes work, time, and commitment. If you’re already spending 30, 40, or 50 hours a week on your auctions, expect to add several hours more for your store. You can’t just put your merchandise up for sale and then let it sit there for weeks at a time. People will assume that the selections never change and they’ll stop coming altogether. You’ve got to put new items up for sale regularly and ship items out quickly, just as you do with auctions. You can close your store if you go on vacation, but you’ll have to wait 30 days before you can reopen it once again. There’s another downside to selling via eBay Stores: the items you sell aren’t retrieved by users who use eBay’s popular Search page. They only appear in response to a Seller search. Set Up Shop Once you have convinced yourself that an eBay Store is right for you, it’s easy enough to get started. If you don’t already have a business name, you should decideP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:26 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 161 7 FIGURE 7-5 An eBay Store gives you another way to reach existing customers. on a name for your store; it needn’t match your User ID. Identify a group of items you want to put up for sale, and settle on the prices you want. You should, in fact, use the same business name and graphics for all of your sales, including your auctions, your About Me page, your eBay Store, or your Web site if you create one. A consistent presentation helps you establish an identity and builds trust among your customers, who will be able to recognize you that much more quickly. Once you’ve got the preliminaries covered, go to the eBay Seller Landing page (shown in Figure 7-6), and click the conspicuous OPEN STORE NOW! button.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:26 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 162 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 7-6 Come to this page to start creating your eBay Store. Create Your Store Log in with your password, if you aren’t logged in already, and click Sign In. Read the statement that says you are subject to the same user Agreement that governs your auction sales. Then click Continue to connect to the Store Content page, where you begin to create your store. The Store Content page presents you with a form that you fill out to locate your store and describe it to potential customers. 1. First, you select one of 14 main categories for your store. Pick the category you use most for your auctions—or choose Everything Else.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 163 2. Enter your store’s “brand name” in the Store name box 3. Type your address in the Seller’s payment information section. 4. Write an agonizingly short (250 characters or less) description of your store in the Store description area. (You add more information in Step 9 if you run out of space.) You don’t get much room to sell your store—each field in the Store Content page is limited to a small number of characters. If you really want as many words as you need to create your own store, opt for your own Web site instead. Otherwise, type your content in any text editor and count the number of characters using the program’s Word Count feature (it’s under the Tools menu). 7 5. Fill out some additional information about what makes your store unique in the Store specialties box (you only get 200 words this time). 6. In the Custom store categories area, enter the types of sales categories under which your merchandise will be sold. Supposedly, these choices are optional. However, when you want to sell an item, you have to list it under one of the categories you have already defined here. Do yourself a favor and come up with some categories under which your merchandise will be listed. 7. Specify your payment methods and ship-to locations, and your sales tax specifications (see Chapter 17). 8. In the “Store customer service & return policy” box, type in any money- back guarantee, customer service numbers, return policies, or Square Trade memberships you can boast. You have to enter 90 characters or less here; the field is required. 9. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to sell yourself and your store even more in the “Additional store information” box. You get 200 more characters to tell people how long you’ve been selling on eBay, how long you’ve been in business, and so on. 10. Optionally, if you haven’t created an About Me page, you get the chance to do so after the “Additional store information” box. The advantage of creating an About Me store here is that, when users click on your AboutP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 164 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Me logo, they’ll be taken to your eBay Store, just as they would if they clicked on your Stores logo. 11. Next, you get to choose colors for your eBay Store. Be sure to pick an accent color of some sort—black and white just looks too stark and uninviting for an online store. 12. Finally, you choose graphics for your store. If you already have an About Me page or a Web page, you can simply choose one of your existing image files for your store. Otherwise, you have two choices: create a logo for your store, or use a predesigned eBay graphic. The predesigned images are overused and don’t distinguish your store in any way. I strongly suggest that you create a logo as described later in this chapter. Give yourself a pat on the back: you’ve created your store and now you can start selling on it. You can always change your store’s category or description by clicking the Seller, manage store link on your store’s home page. List Your Sales Items Once you’ve made the decisions needed to create your eBay Store, you’ll probably find listing items for sale a breeze, especially if you are already adept at putting up items for auction on eBay. The principles described in Chapter 3 for creating auction listings and Chapter 8 for creating good images apply. But there’s one big difference: you don’t have to worry about setting reserve prices or starting bids. You also don’t have to worry about monitoring bids as they are placed. There aren’t any bids at all; rather, you set a fixed price and the item is listed at that price for 30 days. eBay Bestsellers Auction Sales from the Top of the World Selling on eBay and other online venues gives you freedom. You can work where your interest—or your merchandise—lies. That’s true for Steve Brothers and his father Jon, who collect and sell South Asian art and ethnographic items from Kathmandu, Nepal, high in the Himalayan mountains. Most of their items are spiritual or religious in nature, with the emphasis on Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu art and jewelry. eBay is only one of several sales venues for Jon and Steve. They sellP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:27 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 165 new items through Silk Road Trading Concern (http://www.silkroads.com) and old and ethnographic items through Himalayan Mercantile (http://www.himalayan- mercantile.com). They also sell to wholesale clients around the United States and around the world—all without a conventional brick-and-mortar storefront. The Brothers family has sold more than 3,500 items on eBay since 1998, and in that time, they’ve met some wonderful people who have become their close friends, as well as other sellers who’ve caused problems. “eBay is indeed a community, and like all communities it has its saints and its miscreants,” says Steve. “Competition is stiff in our genre, but generally speaking, our competitors seem to be very decent folks. I would not describe it as cutthroat, but I would not characterize it as a particularly altruistic, either. In the early days of eBay we used to have a lot of trouble with people ‘stealing’ text from our auction descriptions, and in several instances our photos as well. 7 If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery than we were being paid very high compliments, but frankly it was more annoying than anything else. We work hard to present an informative and attractive presentation in the auction context, so it was always a bit disheartening to have someone take what we had gone to considerable effort to create, and use it to compete against us.” All of the Silk Road images that appear on eBay include an identifying logo that serves as a “branding logo,” which makes it more difficult for other sellers to reuse. This branding logo makes the image difficult to copy and reuseP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:28 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 166 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Silk Road Trading Concern, the eBay sales using the User ID silkroad, and Himalayan Mercantile are all family operations. Steve and his wife, who is a native of Nepal, travel throughout the region, collecting sale items and researching the traditions behind them. Steve writes the text and creates and manages most of the auctions using eBay Seller’s Assistant, while Jon Brothers handles transaction fulfillment and shipping. Even from the mountains of Nepal, Steve can monitor auctions on eBay with immediacy. “There have been innumerable items that have exceeded our expectations in terms of the type of price they might fetch. On the other hand there have also been great offerings that have flopped from a sales perspective. It’s always exciting to watch bidders “fight it out” in the last minutes of an auction, but the frequency of that has fallen off in the past year and a half or two—partly due to the economy, perhaps, but also due to ‘sniping software.’” Steve advises eBay sellers not to follow his example in selling specialty items, however. “My advice for anyone who really wants to make a living on eBay is to sell some mainstream items—something that a good percentage of the general population wants or, better yet, needs. Fringe items that appeal to a subculture like Tibetan Buddhist practitioners are not all that lucrative. There are a lot of sellers but a relatively finite number of buyers. For prospective eBay sellers, I’d say choose some categories of items you are interested in. Research the market and try to gauge demand. If there is a demand, try to determine if the market in question needs or can support another seller of that type of item. If so, try to determine what ways you can set yourself apart from the pack, whether with attractive pricing, customer service, etc. Essentially, try to determine what will make you as a seller into a desirable source for a given item.” Publish Your Own Web Site About Me and eBay Stores are easy ways to promote your business. But the really effective way to promote trust is to create your own set of interconnected Web pages—in other words, a Web site. On your site, you can talk about yourself and your qualifications in as much detail as you wish. You can also promote your business if you have one. An eBay Store or About Me page can be the glue that links an online business and an auction listing. You don’t have to provide a Web site if you plan to sell at auction. For the most part, it makes sense to take this additional step if one of the following applies to you: ■ You’re in a business related to the items you’re selling. ■ You plan to make auction sales a significant part of your income.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:28 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 167 ■ You plan to sell not only through eBay but through a catalog you present on your Web site, so all the income from the sale (less sales tax) comes to you and not to your Web host. The first step in creating your auction Web page is to decide where your page is going to live online. Your site needs to be hosted on a Web server (a computer that is connected to the Internet all the time, and whose primary purpose is to make Web pages available to anyone with a Web browser) so others can view it. In other words, you need to find a hosting service—a company that functions like a virtual landlord, giving you space on a computer where you can set up shop. This is only the first step of a three-step process: 1. You pick your Web host. 7 2. You create your Web pages. You either use a user-friendly online tool such as a form you fill out to create a page, much the same as eBay’s About Me or Stores features, or, you purchase and install Web page creation software and design your pages on your own computer. 3. You get your pages online. If you create your site using your host’s online tool, you’ll use another tool provided by that same host to move your files to the Web server where they can be seen by everyone. If you create your Web pages yourself, you need to move the files from your computer to the Web server. Sophisticated Web page tools like Dreamweaver and FrontPage can do the file transfer for you. Otherwise, you have to use a special File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program to do the moving. It’s worth taking some time to pick the right host because where your page is located can affect how you create it and how it looks. When it comes to finding a home for your Web pages, you have several options: ■ A free hosting service There aren’t too many free Web hosts left, but you can use Yahoo! GeoCities. ■ Your own ISP If you have an account with a company such as America Online (AOL) or Earthlink, they’ll usually give you space to create a simple Web site as part of your monthly Internet access fee. ■ A company that doesn’t function as an ISP, but only hosts Web sites This is a business that hosts Web sites, and that provides lots of handy tools and help for creating sites.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:28 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 168 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Your choice of host also has an impact on how you create your Web pages. If you aren’t technically minded and have no interest in the technical aspects of designing Web sites, you’ll enjoy using the simple forms-based Web site creators provided by AOL, Yahoo! GeoCities, and Tripod: You fill out a form, and your Web pages are created and automatically placed online. If you want to be in control and make everything look just the way you want, you’ll probably prefer using a Web page creation tool like Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage and publishing your page yourself with your ISP or a Web hosting service. These basic options are described in the following sections. Use a Free Web Hosting Service If you want to create your own full-fledged Web site (and possibly get a second e-mail address if you need one), sign up with one of the organizations that give anyone space on a Web server where they can publish their own set of interconnected Web pages. One advantage of signing up for an account with one of these organizations is that they are targeted at users who have little or no experience setting up Web pages. You’ll find Help pages and other instructions to lead you through the steps in becoming a Web publisher. Another advantage is that you become part of another community of Web surfers. You can join clubs and interact with other users who also publish their pages on the site, just as you can with eBay community members. On the downside, you usually have to display ads on your site. Here are some sites to consider. Yahoo! GeoCities Yahoo! GeoCities (http://geocities.yahoo.com/home) is one of the oldest and most successful of the free online services. It not only provides users with a place on the Web for their personal home pages, but also supplies easy-to-use Web page forms that format the Web pages for you (see Figure 7-7), as well as programs that transfer (or, in technospeak, upload) the files from your home computer to GeoCities. Like eBay, GeoCities tends to be a world unto itself. Members identify themselves as being part of a “neighborhood” of individuals with similar interests. You can sign up for a free account with GeoCities, but you’ll have to show ads on your Web pages. Plus, your URL (your Web address) will have to take the form http://geocities.yahoo.com/[your Yahoo! userid]. To move up to an easy-to- remember URL like http://www.mysiteorbusiness.com, you’d have to pay $8.95 per month for the GeoCities Pro hosting package. (GeoCities also offers a $4.95 per month hosting option.)P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:29 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 169 7 FIGURE 7-7 If you use GeoCities, you can create Web pages using Yahoo!’s Page Wizard utility. Tripod Tripod (http://www.tripod.com), which is owned by the Internet search service Lycos, also has an active site that hosts lots of individual Web surfer home pages. Members can chat and post messages on message boards. Like Yahoo! GeoCities, Tripod offers users a free Web site hosting service that is ad-supported. Other ad-free hosting options are available, ranging from $49.5 to $19.95 per month. Tripod is distinguished from Yahoo! GeoCities in that its free service includes 20MB of space (compared with 12MB for GeoCities), and its monthly fee packages include software that lets you create those popular running diaries called Weblogs. Users of all packages (including the free one) also gain access to a library of clip art images they can use to spice up their Web pages.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:29 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 170 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business If you’re looking for Web space for nothing and you don’t mind displaying ads on your Web pages, consider free hosting packages offered by companies such as Netfirms (http://www.netfirms.com), which gives you a whopping 25MB of server space plus the ability to create Web page forms that are backed up by CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts. Freeservers (http://www.freeservers.com) gives you 12MB of space and a choice of Web page creation tools as well. Host With Your Own ISP An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that gives individuals or businesses access to the Internet. For the most part, ISPs give customers dialup accounts or cable modem or DSL lines that let them connect to the Internet. Along with Internet access, most ISPs also let users create personal home pages and publish them on a Web server. The advantage of using an ISP as your host is that it’s convenient and free, and you get the service anyway. Most ISP Web servers are fast and reliable. On the downside, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to obtaining software to create your Web pages, and with publishing those pages by moving them from your computer to the ISP’s Web server. America Online America Online (AOL) is a wildly popular site for Internet access and, if you already have an account with AOL, you should certainly consider setting up a Web page with them. If you have an account with AOL, you automatically gain 2MB of Web server space where you can store your own Web pages. This might seem like only a small amount of room, but it’s more than enough for a moderately-sized Web site, given that the typical Web page only consumes 5K to 30K of disk space, not including images. Not only that, but each of the seven separate usernames you can create on AOL is entitled to 2MB of space, giving you a total of 14MB to work with. ■ My FTP Space This is AOL’s catch-all term for a number of Web page resources. One of those resources, 1-2-3 Publish, works like Yahoo!’s Page Wizard and eBay’s own About Me feature: you create a Web page by filling out a form with your Web browser. You can use another Web page design if you want to. You can only reach My FTP Space from within AOL’s software, using the keyword My FTP Space.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:29 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 171 ■ AOL Hometown (http://hometown.aol.com) This is America Online’s site on the Web where individuals can create Web pages. You create the page using 1-2-3 Publish, and you locate it on AOL Hometown so anyone on the Web can find it, not just AOL users. One difference between this and the preceding services is an orientation toward business-oriented Web sites. If you sell antiques on eBay, for instance, you might want to create a Web site in the “neighborhood” called Furniture & Antiques, which is shown in Figure 7-8. 7 FIGURE 7-8 AOL Hometown gives you “neighborhoods” where you can locate Web pages with others who share similar interests.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:30 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 172 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Other ISPs America Online isn’t the only ISP in town, of course. Virtually all ISPs give their customers some Web hosting space along with Internet access. I have some friends who have set up their Web sites with Earthlink (http://www.earthlink.com), and I have created a couple of Web sites with my own ISP, XO Communications (http://www.xo.com), as well. Earthlink gives you a pretty good deal: at this writing, they offer unlimited dialup access for $10.97 for the first six months and $21.95 per month thereafter. Users get 10MB of free Web space and a Web page creation tool called Click-n-Build, too. When you use an ISP for Web hosting, you save money. And you don’t need to necessarily go with the ISP’s free Web editor, either. You can easily download and install the editor of your choice. By Web page editor, I mean software that lets you format Web pages and then publish them on your Web site. The advantage of creating your own ISP-hosted Web site is control: you can design your page by selecting your own colors and page layouts, and adding as many images as you want. In contrast, a simple Web page feature such as that offered by eBay lets you select a basic page layout that may or may not look the way you want. On the other hand, creating your own Web page and hosting it with an ISP is complex: you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to selecting Web page software and learning how to publish your documents with the ISP. It’s not all that difficult to learn some HTML, of course, as you can see in the examples in Chapter 5. Some ISPs discourage individual users setting up commercial Web sites with the Web space that comes with a personal account. If you want to set up a business site to supplement your auction sales, they want you to pay extra for a business Web site account. Check with your own ISP to see what options are available. It’s not hard to find ISPs. You can also peruse some lengthy and detailed lists of ISPs such as The List (http://thelist.internet.com) or Providers of Commercial Internet Access (http://celestin.com/pocia). Use a Dedicated Web Host If you are planning on running a full-fledged online business, I recommend that you pay a monthly fee and sign up for a full-featured account with a company that is primarily concerned with making Web sites like yours available online. A dedicatedP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:30 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 173 Web hosting service (one that does only hosting, and not Internet access) gives you more disk storage space, more services (such as statistics that report on the number of visits to all of the pages in your site, where your visitors are coming from, and so on), and customer service that is (or at least, should be) a cut above that provided by ISPs or free Web hosts. Typically, your account with a Web host should enable you to get a “vanity” domain name (in the form http://www.mysite.com), anywhere from 50MB to multiple gigabytes of Web space (depending on how much you want to spend each month), as well as multiple e-mail addresses. You may want to look for a hosting package that gives you the ability to process Web page forms by means of computer programs called CGI scripts. You might even get shopping cart software that enables you to set up an online sales catalog from which people can make selections. Your Web host may be able to help you obtain a credit card merchant account as well (see Chapter 9). Each of these types of e-commerce features is a significant step up 7 from a simple Web hosting account, and each carries with it an additional degree of technical complexity. If you are interested in creating an e-commerce Web site, be sure to find a hosting service that will lead you through the process in a user-friendly way without making you set up CGI scripts or other technical features completely on your own. The following table sums up the Web site alternatives covered in this chapter: If you want to… Set up this Web site alternative Let your eBay customers get to know you better An About Me page Sell items for a fixed price An eBay Store Have total control over your store and sales An e-commerce Web site Find the Right Web Site Creation Software What software should you use to create your Web pages? If you’re on a shoestring and you don’t want the trouble of choosing, purchasing, and installing software, consider using Netscape Composer, the Web page tool that is built in with the Web browser package Netscape Communicator. Composer is absolutely free, and it contains plenty of features for creating tables, forms, and other sophisticated Web page elements (see Figure 7-9). If you don’t use Netscape’s browser or if you would rather use a more powerful tool, consider Macromedia Dreamweaver (http://www.macromedia.com) orP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:30 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 174 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 7-9 Netscape Composer is available for free with Netscape’s Web browser. Microsoft FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage). These two high- powered programs give you all the tools you need to create Web sites, and they have the ability to move your Web pages from your own computer to your host’s site as well. Dreamweaver is shown in Figure 7-10. Regular Maintenance and Upkeep On the Web, it’s clear what’s hot and what’s not. One of the worst insults you can get in cyberspace is to be called the keeper of a cobWeb page. Make sure your page is always fresh by updating it often. Add new features and remove dated material. Don’t put up a page and leave it unattended for long periods of time. Don’t include links to your current auctions on your regular Web site; you’ll have to update them constantly. Leave such links for an About Me page, where they’ll be updated automatically by eBay.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:31 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen CHAPTER 7: Create Your Own Web Pages 175 7 FIGURE 7-10 Macromedia lets you monitor and organize entire Web sites and publish them online. An even better reason to update your Web site is that you get the chance to rework and improve it. Don’t be afraid to consider your site as being continually under construction and something you can always upgrade. Where to Find It ■ eBay About Me login page http://members.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?AboutMeLogin A form you can fill out to begin the process of creating an About Me page on eBay. ■ eBay Stores home page http://www.stores.ebay.com The welcome page for eBay Stores—the place where customers go to shop.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:31 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 7Composite Default screen 176 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ eBay Storefronts: Seller Landing page http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/seller-landing.html The place where sellers go to create or edit their eBay Stores. ■ The List http://thelist.internet.com Detailed lists of ISPs organized by location and level of service, as well as Web hosting services.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch07.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:26:31 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen blind folio 177 Create Digital Chapter 8 Images that SellP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 178 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Learn to capture digital images of your sales merchandise ■ Scan flat (or nearly flat) objects with a flatbed scanner ■ Work with common Web graphics formats ■ Edit images to optimize their on-screen presentation ■ Assemble your own amateur photo studio ■ Store your images online ■ Link to your images to appear with your auction description For many auction bidders, a good image is worth more than a thousand words of description. Many of the eBay denizens who scour auction categories searching for unusual, rare, or simply oddball items already know what they want. They scan the description primarily to determine about an item’s condition. They pay close attention to the images that accompany the auction listing, however. The more images you have and the clearer they are, the better your chances of getting bids. Unless you’re selling something that’s rare and eagerly sought-after, you’ve pretty much got to have one or more images to go along with its sales listing on eBay. There’s really no excuse for not creating those images, even if you’re the proverbial techno-phobe. Digital cameras are becoming more affordable and easy to use. You can also call on friends and photo labs to provide you with computer images if you need to. Digital imaging is well within your ability, however, and this chapter will show you how to create good-quality graphics that help you gain top dollar for what you want to sell. Capture Those Images The term capture probably makes it sound like you need to go out and rope a wild animal. But obtaining images that you can publish on the Web is much easier than that. By “capturing” an image so you can use it online, I mean that you have to create, save, or obtain images in the form of computer files—in other words, digital images. Once you have a digital image in your computer, you can get it on your Web page. In the process of capturing a digital image, a scanner or digital camera turns the image into very small squares, known as pixels. Each pixel in a computer image contains one or more bits of digital information.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:42 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 179 Digital images that consist of pixels are called bitmaps. Bitmaps are images that have been saved in a format that makes them easy to display and transmit online. Scanned photos on Web pages should be clear, small in size, tightly cropped, and compressed so they appear quickly in a browser window. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), PNG (Portable Network Graphics), GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), and JPEG (Joint Experts Photographic Group) are all bitmapped image formats used in computer graphics. JPEG and PNG are used to present photos on the Web, so you need to save your digital photos in one of these two formats. eBay Picture Services only supports JPEG, however. Are you keeping all of these technical details straight? You won’t be quizzed on them. The least you need to know is this: you need to get images of your sales items into your computer in JPEG or PNG format. How do you obtain (or “capture”) digital images of your auction merchandise? You’ve got four basic options: 8 ■ Take a digital photo The most practical and affordable option is to use a digital camera to take a photo of what you want to sell. The camera saves the image directly to computer disk. Digital cameras like the one shown in Figure 8-1 are becoming more affordable all the time; you can take as many photos as your camera’s memory will hold and transfer them to your computer in a matter of seconds. ■ Scan the image Scanners like the flatbed model shown in Figure 8-2 are less expensive than digital cameras—you can find them at Buy It Now prices of $40 to $60. You can also rent time on a scanner at a branch of Kinko’s Copies. Or you can borrow a friend’s scanning device. Simply take a conventional photo of an object with a camera and scan the image to convert it to the computer file. ■ Use a photo lab You can take a conventional print or slide photo and have the photo lab return the images to you on computer disk instead of as prints or slides. ■ Capture a digital video image of the object Digital video cameras like the one shown in Figure 8-3 take still images that you can save directly to disk. Plus, you can take high-quality video of your family, too.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 180 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 8-1 Digital cameras are an increasingly affordable option for auction sellers. The option you choose depends on how many auctions you plan to conduct, on your budget, and your level of comfort with technology. If you only plan to put a few auctions online once in a while, you can take photos with a conventional camera and have a photo lab convert your images to digital files, but this can quickly get expensive. You can use a scanner, but these work best with flat objects such as magazines, and their size is limited by the size of the device’s scanning area. Your most economical option is probably to use a digital camera, as described in the following section. Use a Digital Camera Digital cameras bring a new level of convenience to capturing images that can be viewed and edited on a computer. My own experience tells me that this is howP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 181 8 FIGURE 8-2 Flatbed scanners are inexpensive but designed mostly for scanning flat objects. the majority of eBay sellers take their auction images. There are so many digital cameras on the market that this chapter isn’t going to attempt recommendations at which model is best for you to buy. Rather, it assumes that you already have a digital camera and you’re looking for some tips on how to use it to capture auction images. Most digital cameras give you two ways of composing images. You can look either through the viewfinder (the little window on the back of the camera) or the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), the miniature screen that lets you preview images. To my mind, the LCD is preferable because it’s more precise. But don’t depend on the little framing square that’s supposed to indicate what’s going to be in the finalP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:43 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 182 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 8-3 You can use digital video cameras to capture still images of your auction items. image to be perfect. Leave some extra room around the edges when you frame your images (see Figure 8-4). Digital cameras give you the ability to preview images and simply throw them out and redo them if they aren’t the way you want. Virtually all digital cameras allow you to zoom in on your subject as well. As a general rule, the closer you are the sharper your image. You should try to get as close as possible to your subject before taking the photo. Purchase a Scanner If you consistently sell printed material such as postcards, stamps, or historical documents, you should use a device that’s specially designed to capture those images in the form of computer files—a flatbed scanner. A scanner is computer hardware that digitizes a single object by moving an optical device much like a camera across it. There are different types of scanners around, but the most practical and easiest to use is a flatbed; its name reflects the fact that the bed on which the photo or other image is placed is flat.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 183 8 FIGURE 8-4 The image on the left is too tight; the other is just right. Scanners are sometimes advertised as having very fine resolutions. While this is important if you intend to scan images for printed booklets, if you’re scanning for eBay or the Web you only need a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch), and any scanner can scan at that relatively coarse setting. But it’s a good idea to scan at 144 or 300 dpi and then reduce the resolution using an image editing program in order to get better detail. Scanning, Step by Step After you buy a scanner and set it up, you won’t find it that difficult to use. However, some rules of thumb can ensure that your objects turn out clear and sharp: 1. Pick a good image. Remember that your images won’t appear in print; they’ll be seen on a computer screen. You have to account for those shoppers who have old, murky monitors. Select high contrast images—images that have a clear difference between light and dark areas.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:44 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 184 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business 2. Use your scanning software. All scanners come with some sort of software that lets you scan the images and save them in various formats. Sometimes, scanners come with programs that act as plug-ins (programs that work within another graphics program like Adobe Photoshop). 3. After you install the software, following the instructions that come with your scanner, start up the program, turn on the scanner, and make a preview scan of your first image. A preview scan gives you a quick idea what an image will look like after you do the actual scan. Look for the button that says Preview, such as the one in the lower-left corner of the DeskScan II window, shown in Figure 8-5. 4. Once you have the preview scan on screen, crop it. Cropping an image means that you select the part of the image that you want to appear in the final version and leave out parts of the image that aren’t essential. 5. Select an input mode. An input mode tells the scanner how you want the information in the image to be captured. For most auction images, you’ll choose the Color option. However, if what you’re scanning is a black and white photo, you can reduce the file size dramatically by choosing grayscale mode. On the other hand, if you’re scanning line art, a signature, a cartoon, or another drawing, use line art mode. FIGURE 8-5 A preview scan lets you crop or reduce an image before you make the final scan.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 185 6. Set the resolution. Since you’re scanning auction images for the Web, choose 150 or 300 dots per inch (dpi). Since computer monitors can display no more than approximately 72 dpi, reduce the resolution to 72 dpi in a graphics program. 7. Make adjustments. All scanning software comes with brightness and contrast controls that you can move to see if the image improves. You can do this later using image editing software, but why not save yourself the work by making improvements at the scanning stage? When you’re done with all the preparation work, you can press the Scan button and finally scan your image. It’s a good idea to calibrate your scanner before you start making scans. Calibrating means that you match the scanner to your monitor so that your image previews are accurate. the exact procedure differs from scanner to scanner. But in general, you make a test scan of an image. Next, you use 8 your scanning software’s calibration controls. The exact menu options vary depending on the software used. You Can Scan More than Just Paper A scanner can be great for scanning flat objects for the Web, but you can also scan some three-dimensional items, like watches or almost-flat toys. Just drape some black cloth or clothing over the object so it covers the glass and you’ll have a clean background behind what you’re scanning. If a scanner is all you have, you can use it to scan items that are bigger than the scanning surface (such as LP-record albums) in pieces and then reassemble them using an image editing program (see “Choose a Graphics Editor” later in this chapter). You can also find scanners that do more than just scan—they function as color copiers and fax machines as well. They, too, are becoming more affordable all the time and they regularly show up on eBay for Buy It Now prices under $200. Set Up Your Photo Studio Most eBay sellers who take their own digital photos (in other words, most eBay sellers) set up a miniature photo studio in their home. It’s easy enough to set one up, and not that expensive, either. Here’s a shopping list for what you’ll need: ■ A table I’m talking about a moderately-sized table on which you can place and light your sales items. Things that are too large to fit atop the table can go in front of it.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 186 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business ■ Lights Make an effort to obtain professional studio lights. I say more about this in the section on lighting that follows. ■ Tripod A tripod like the one show below is a stand with extendable legs on which you can place your camera. A tripod isn’t just to hold the camera still while you snap the shutter. In a photo studio, a tripod enables you to position the merchandise and the camera just right and adjust the lighting as well. Once you point your camera at your table, you can leave it there from photo to photo. ■ Power supply Instead of having to replace batteries every few days, purchase the rechargeable variety. ■ Display stands If you’re selling jewelry and other items that consist of multiple pieces, you’ll do well to purchase a display stand that includes a riser—something that makes the items stand up so you can photograph them better. ■ Fabric A solid, seamless background is a must-have for good photos of auction merchandise. Go to the local fabric store and get several lengths of four- or six-foot wide fabric in several solid colors. Black is pretty much required for light items; also get a light neutral color such as white, gray, or beige so you can choose the color that makes the item look the best.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 187 Give Your Piece a Chance All the lighting, backgrounds, and even the best digital camera in the world can’t make up for forgetting to do some basic things when you actually take your photo. For instance: ■ Whip out the Windex Be sure to take a towel and wipe off what you’re selling. Brush the cat hairs off those clothes, polish that silver, and wipe the dirt smudges and fingerprints off those plastic slim-line phones. But remember to take care not to wipe too hard or use too strong a cleaner or you’ll damage what you’re trying to sell. ■ Move in for a close-up Most good digital cameras have powerful zoom lenses; use them to get nice and close on your item before you actually take the photo. If you’re too far away, you’ll lose detail and your item might even look out of focus. 8 ■ Clean up the area A smudge on a wall or a stray toy on the floor can distract attention from what you want people to look at. ■ Clean your lens If you’ve been using your camera outdoors or if you have forgotten to put on the lens cap recently, wipe off the lens (with a clean, photo-quality lens cloth rather than a shirtsleeve or paper towel) so you don’t obscure your image. ■ Check your focus The autofocus feature on many digital cameras doesn’t work perfectly all of the time. Take a good look through the viewfinder or LCD and adjust the focus manually, if necessary, before you click. One of the many nice things about digital cameras is that you can take as many photos as you want, erase the ones you don’t like, and save only the best. Don’t be reluctant to photograph an image from many different angles and with many different levels of zoom. You can publish as many photos as you want with your auctions— though I never seem to see more than six or eight at any one time. Don’t limit yourself to one or two. Studio Lights If you need to take lots of images, and you’ve been plagued by dim and deeply shadowed images, you might consider a drastic upgrade and buying studio lights for your eBay images. The problem is that the built-in flash on a digital camera comes from only one direction and is apt to leave shadows around the edges ofP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:45 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 188 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business what you’re photographing. Two or three good studio lights with umbrellas to diffuse the light, like the ones shown in Figure 8-6, will do the trick. Let the Sun Shine You may want to take your photos outdoors in order to avoid the problems caused by homemade backgrounds and shadows caused by indoor spot lighting. (As an alternative, you can place your item by a window that catches the sun and put a white cotton cloth or bed sheet over the window to diffuse the light.) It can be tricky to take photos outdoors, because the sun can produce shadows that actually make merchandise more difficult to see rather than easier. But on a bright cloudy day, the lighting outdoors is even and very good. Steve Brothers of Silk Road FIGURE 8-6 Professional studio lights will pay off in the long run.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 189 Trading Concern (User ID: silkroad) shoots all of his merchandise outdoors— in Nepal. He says: “We use a digital camera to photograph our items. I prefer to shoot outdoors in indirect light. Taking product photos is something one gets better at over time. The clients will guide you in terms of the necessity for auxiliary detail photos. We only ran one front view in the early days, and people would e-mail us asking for extra shots. We eventually realized that some items such as statues or paintings often require multiple shots—side views, back views, or close-ups.” Choose an Image Format Whether you use a digital camera or scanner to save your images to disk, you need to choose a file format in which to save them. The file formats that are especially designed to process photos on the Web, JPEG and PNG, process digital information in an image and compress files to make them consume less disk space. All Web browsers can open and display files in these formats. Of these two, eBay recommends 8 that you save your image in JPEG format. Both GIF and JPEG images display correctly on eBay auction pages. JPEG, however, is generally a better format for photographic images with lots of colors, while GIF generally works better for line drawings. If you pay extra for a photo lab to create digital images for you, you can tell the service to save the files as JPEGs. Otherwise, you can do so yourself by using the software that comes with your scanner, digital camera, or other hardware device. Usually, you save in JPEG format by choosing File | Save from the program’s menu bar and then choosing JPEG from the list of formats that are available. You also need to save the file with the file name extension JPG (or, on a Macintosh, JPEG). JPEG compresses image files, but it provides you with several different levels of compression from which to choose. The higher the level of compression, the smaller the image file. At maximum compression, however, you lose some information in the image, and the image doesn’t appear as sharp as it can if you use a lower level of compression. If you’re not sure which level to choose, try High or Maximum compression to keep the file size as small as possible.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 190 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Create Images that Sell You’ve got a snazzy new digital camera, you’ve read the instruction booklet, and you’ve even taken a few test images. You probably think all you need to do now is point, click, and upload to get your photos on the Web along with your auction descriptions. You can do that, and it’s even possible that some of your photos will come out perfectly the first time. Remember, though, that I’m trying to provide you with instructions for running a successful eBay business. An important part of consistently selling at auction is coming up with a system for creating good images that attract attention and help people decide whether what you’re offering is a good match for what they need. The fact is, most of the time, the images you take of your auction items are going to need some adjustments before you put them online. If you devote a few minutes to brightening your images, cropping them, they’ll show your objects in their best light (and I mean that literally). You’ll separate your images from the ones I see on all too many eBay auctions that are too large, take too long to appear, and are dark and fuzzy to boot. You’ll have another way to show your prospective customers that you are a professional and serious about selling on eBay. Choose a Graphics Editor Often, images aren’t good if you capture them straight from your scanner, digital camera, or other input device. Instead, after you save your image in JPEG or PNG format, you can then edit (or, in photographic terms, retouch) the image in a graphics program to improve its appearance. Personally, I like a program called Adobe Photoshop Elements which, you’ll be happy to know, comes bundled with many digital cameras. If you get this software along with your camera, you’ve got a great deal. Here are the kinds of things you should adjust with Photoshop Elements or another graphics program: ■ Adjust contrast and brightness The contrast of an image is the degree of difference between its light and dark tones. Brightness refers to the vibrancy or energy of the colors or shades of color in the image. Images displaying adequate levels of contrast and brightness are easier to view on a monitor. Photoshop Elements’ controls are shown in Figure 8-7. ■ Resize images Resize images so that they’re smaller than originally scanned and fit well on the eBay auction Web page. (Look through your graphics program’s menus to find a resize option.)P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:46 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 191 8 FIGURE 8-7 Graphics editors give you great control over an image’s appearance. Generally speaking, an image that’s two or three inches wide and perhaps four to five inches tall is a good size. File sizes of 20 to 30K or less are also desirable. ■ Zoom in on what’s important Cropping refers to the practice of cutting out unnecessary details and keeping a certain area of the image on which you want to focus. It makes the image size smaller so that the photo fits better in a Web browser window. By making the image smaller, you also make the file size smaller. An image that’s, say, 12K in size appears on-screen much faster than does one that’s 100K in size. Keep File Size Small You can’t depend on your bidders to have relatively fast cable modem, DSL, or other fast connections. You don’t know whether they’re viewing your images onP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:47 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 192 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Other Graphics Editors Photoshop Elements (and its “big brother” program, the professional graphics editor simply called Photoshop) are terrific programs, but they consume lots of memory and disk space. (Photoshop Elements 2 requires 128MB of RAM and from 150 to 350MB of hard disk space.) I also like the simpler Windows program Paint Shop Pro, by Jasc, Inc. (http://www.jasc.com/pspdl.html). If you are a Macintosh user, and you don’t want to invest in a complex program like Adobe Photoshop Elements, Thorsten Lemke’s GraphicConverter is a great shareware ($35) graphics program. You can download or purchase it from http://www.lemkesoft.de/us_index.html. iPhoto is a free program that runs on any Mac that uses OS X: find out more at http://www.apple.com/iphoto. an old, slow computer or a speedy new one. Your goal is to make your images consume as little memory as possible, so they appear in the browser window right away. These are simple tasks that you can perform in virtually any graphics editor to optimize your images for quick viewing. Crop Those Photos Simply scanning an entire photo from edge to edge and putting the entire photo on your Web page usually results in an image that takes up more space than it should— in terms of physical size (height and width) as well as disk space. Cropping a photo does two things: ■ It concentrates the viewer’s eye on the most important area ■ Makes the file size and the image size smaller Cropping an image is important and you should do it whenever possible. The smaller an image file is, the quicker it will appear on your bidders’ computer screens. You do this by clicking the cropping button, positioning your mouse pointer just above and to one side of the image, clicking and holding down your mouse button, and dragging your mouse down and to the opposite side of the image. Release your mouse when the subject of your photo is outlined with the marquee box.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:47 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 193 Cropping photos whenever possible literally reduces the number of bits of information in the photo. A 196×232-pixel photo might contain 13K (13,000 bits) of information; reducing it to 120×142 pixels reduces the size dramatically. It’s important to keep photos small in size to ensure that they fit within the smallest computer screens. Remember that although a minority of Web surfers have 21-inch flat-screen monitors; many others have 17-inch monitors that are actually only about 12-inches in width. Within that space, a user may configure a Web browser window to be only 7 to 10 inches in width. Smaller photos aren’t that hard to see clearly on Web pages because people typically sit very close to their computer screen. Keeping your images 3 to 6 inches in width is a safe measurement that most people will be able to see in their entirety. Set the Resolution Earlier in this chapter, I mentioned that scanned images are made up of little bits of information called pixels. Those dots are small, but they aren’t always the same 8 size. When you scan an image, you have the option of making the dots really small so that the image appears extra smooth. This is called setting the resolution of an image. The size of the dots is expressed in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the number of dots per inch, the smaller the dots are, and the finer the image will be. Setting the resolution is a simple matter when you are preparing images for eBay. Scan at 300 dpi resolution, then reduce the resolution to 72 dpi when you edit the image in a graphics program. If the image seems dark or “muddy,” adjust the brightness and contrast. In most scanning programs, the brightness and contrast controls are sliders that you can move either to the left or right. Try them out and see if the image improves. If you’re happy with the image as is, leave the brightness and contrast set to zero. Create Thumbnail Images You can use a graphics program to create a thumbnail or miniature version of an image to a larger, more memory intensive version. The smaller version (which takes up only a small amount of memory, and appears on screen quickly) gives the viewer a glimpse of what the full image will look like, and the chance to decide whetherP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:48 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 194 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business to view the full image in greater detail. Clicking on the link brings a larger, more detailed version of the image to screen (which is larger in size, and takes longer to appear on screen). Take Time With Your Presentation The way you present your merchandise has a big effect on whether people will pass them by or make a bid. If you have clothing to sell, or if you regularly sell watches or jewelry, by all means invest in some mannequins on which to mount them (see Figure 8-8). They’ll look much better if people can visualize how they look on a human body, rather than laying flat on a table. Where better to find mannequins than on eBay itself? Don’t be reluctant to include lots of clear photos with an item, no matter how “unpicturesque” it might appear. For instance, how many photos can you take of an old hat? mrmodern included so many good close-ups in this listing that, if the hat would have fit me, I would have bid on it myself.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:48 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 195 8 FIGURE 8-8 Be sure to display clothing or jewelry on mannequins. Find a Home for Your Images In order for images to appear on auction listings or other Web pages, they need to find a home—a virtual home, that is, in the form of space on a computer that’s connected to the Internet all the time, called a Web server. You’ve got plenty of options for finding that home. Your ISP may provide you with storage space; you can send your photos to eBay’s Picture Services; or you can sign up with a full-time photo hosting service. The options are described in the sections that follow. eBay Picture Services eBay’s own photo hosting services, eBay Picture Services, has undergone some changes in the past few years. For one thing, it used to be called eBay iPIX. For another, it used to be the object of much criticism. eBay iPIX was accused of problems with image quality and limitations of size. eBay Picture Services is easier to use, and the quality is better as well—especially if you use the full-featured versionP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 196 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Upload an Image 1. From any eBay page, click the Sell button in the toolbar. 2. Choose the category in which you want to sell you item. 3. Log in with your eBay User ID and password and click Continue. 4. Fill out the Sell Your Item form. The Basic Version of Picture Services appears by default (see Figure 8-9). Click Browse to locate the image file (or files) you want to add. Locate the file on your computer, click Open, and the image is added to the list of files to upload when you create your auction listing at the end of the form. 5. However, if you use a Windows computer, click the link Try our full featured version just to the right of the Basic Picture Services. If a dialog box appears asking if you want to download an ActiveX Control or Java Applet, click Yes. (You need these mini-programs to use the other version of Picture Services.) The Full-Featured Picture Services appears. 6. You can upload an image using Full-Featured Picture Services in one of two ways. Click on a box to select a photo file on your computer. Or, you can click on a photo file stored on your computer and drag the file to one of the picture boxes in the Add Pictures page. Full-Featured Picture Services works only with Windows computers; Basic Picture Services works with Macintosh or Windows. that lets Windows users drag image files from their computer to the Sell Your Item form to get them online. eBay Picture Services seems to be shaping up as far as image quality, but if you sell large quantities of merchandise on a regular basis, you still might want to shop around. The service lets you include one image per item for no charge. You are charged a nominal fee (at this writing, 15 cents) for subsequent images of the same item. Suppose you sell 100 items per month, and you post an average of twoP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:49 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 197 8 FIGURE 8-9 eBay Basic Picture Services images of each item. You could easily end up paying an extra $15 per month just for image hosting. It pays to at least know your options when it comes to finding a Web server that can host your digital image file (that is, one that enables you to place the file in a directory on the server so that someone with a Web browser can access it). eBay University includes an online tutorial that explains how to take digital photos and add them to your auction listings at http://pages .ebay.com/education/tutorial/course2/photo_1.html. Other Photo Hosts It pays to shop around when looking for a Web server that your auction images can call home. After all, if your images don’t appear reliably and quickly, your bidders might well leave your sale and bid on someone else’s items. Another considerationP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 198 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business is the software you use to get your images from your computer to the Web storage space. You may have to use a special program that does the transfer by using a special set of instructions called File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Other services (such as AOL) provide such software to you. If you use one of the auction management packages mentioned in Chapter 6, you don’t have to install special software, either; the transfer utility is provided as part of the service’s user interface. The following list describes some of the types of Web hosts that you can use to make your auction image files available online: ■ Your own ISP The first place to turn is to the company that gives you access to the Internet: your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Providing users with access to the Internet and hosting Web sites are two different functions, certainly, but the same organization may well perform them. Many ISPs provide you with use of at least 10MB of Web site space at no additional cost to you. ■ America Online (AOL) AOL enables subscribers to create and publish their own Web pages or to place simple image files on the Web. (As mentioned in Chapter 7, you get as much as 14MB of Web storage space with a basic AOL account.) AOL is quite popular with sellers on eBay and other auction services. ■ A Web hosting service The same Web hosting services that publish your Web sites give you space that can be used for posting images and Web pages alike. See Chapter 7 for suggestions. ■ An auction management service Most services that help you manage your auction sales, such as ManageAuctions.com (http:// www.manageauctions.com) and AuctionHelper.com (http://www .auctionhelper.com) make it easy to upload your image files. ■ A photo hosting service A few Web sites specialize in providing space where eBay and other auction users can publish auction images to accompany sales listings. PixHost (at http://www.pixhost.com), for example, enables you to host two images on its site for free; after that trial usage, hosting images costs 50 cents each for 30 days, which is far more expensive than eBay’s own Picture Services. However, you can upload files using your Web browser, as described in the site’s online tutorial (see Figure 8-10).P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 199 8 FIGURE 8-10 An image hosting service gives you a way to upload image files with your browser. If you use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2, you have the ability to move files from your computer to storage space with the online photo service Shutterfly (http://www.shutterfly.com). You can even upload the files after you edit them in Photoshop Elements, without having to use a special file transfer program. Mac users can get 100MB of storage space through Apple’s .Mac subscription service, which costs $99 per year after a free 60-day trial period. Linking to Your Image After you create a digital image and add it to your host site, you add that image to your sales description by specifying the URL for the image on the eBay Sell Your Item form. All ISPs provide customers with instructions on how to figure out their Web page URLs. Call the Customer Service section of your ISP, orP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:50 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen 200 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business check the company’s FAQ. A common convention is to assign a URL that looks like this (this example is for a JPEG image, which has the filename extension .jpg) http://www.yourISP.com/~yourusername/filename.jpg After posting an image online, verify that it actually appears on your page. The most common cause of a broken image or question mark icon appearing with your description instead of the image itself is an incorrect URL. If you’re typing the URL from scratch, you must get it right exactly: A single blank space, capital letter, or typo in an URL can prevent a Web browser from locating the image and displaying it on-screen. Upload Your Image to the Gallery You can also specify whether to place any images that accompany your listing in the eBay Gallery as well as displaying them on the auction Web page itself. If you put a number of your images in the Gallery (at 25 cents per image), you can create FIGURE 8-11 For an extra 25 cents, you can create your own photo Gallery.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:51 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 8Composite Default screen CHAPTER 8: Create Digital Images that Sell 201 your own photo gallery. If someone searches for your items and clicks Gallery View, they can see them all at once (see Figure 8-11). The Gallery is a collection of images that auction sellers submit of items they’re currently offering for sale. Buyers can browse through the images and click one in which they’re interested; clicking the image takes them to the auction sales page where they can read a description and place a bid if they so choose. The Gallery doesn’t display all the images that accompany auction listings—only the ones for which sellers pay the extra 25-cent fee for extra exposure in the Gallery. (You can splurge and pay $19.95 to place your image in a featured area of the Gallery as well.) You can create a link to your own Gallery page that you can include on your own Web site or your About Me page. Be sure to replace the eBayUserID string with your own user ID: <a href=http://search-desc.ebay.com/search/search.dll?MfcISAPICommand= GetResult&query=eBayUserID&srchdesc=y&ebaytag1=ebayreg&ebaytag1code=0&ht= 1&SortProperty=MetaEndSort&sc=1&st=2> Click here to view my Gallery auctions 8 </a> Where to Find It ■ eBay University photo tutorial http://pages.ebay.com/education/tutorial/ course2/photo_1.html An online tutorial that briefly explains how to capture and save images and get them online. ■ eBay Picture Services http://pages.ebay.com/help/basics/ pictureservices.html An overview of eBay’s photo hosting service, plus links to a FAQ and an online tutorial on how to add a photo to your auction listing. ■ Photos/HTML Discussion Board http://forums.ebay.com/db1/forum .jsp?forum=99 Discussions about how to post photos on eBay and edit auction listings with HTML.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch08.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 7:45:51 PM
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    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen blind folio 205 Accept Payments Chapter 9 and Serve Your CustomersP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:33 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 206 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business How to… ■ Use e-mail to answer prospective bidders’ questions ■ Send out end-of-auction notices and reminders ■ Respond to complaints and problems after the sale ■ Accept checks and money orders safely ■ Take advantage of payment services that streamline transactions ■ Accept credit card payments ■ Verify credit card purchasers’ information Putting your first sale online is exciting. Watching the bids come in is a thrill. Watching the action as the sale closes can make your pulse pound. But the real rewarding part—the real satisfaction—comes when you are paid for what you sold. All of your hard work pays off when you get a check in the mail or you have a notice that funds have been transferred to your account. Before you get to the payment stage, you need to interact with your customers at several critical stages. How you respond to bidders who make inquiries as well as your auction winners has a direct bearing on the level of trust and professionalism you present online. Providing good customer service not only makes transactions go more smoothly, it also builds goodwill on eBay as a whole and has a tangible benefit in terms of the positive feedback you receive. Sellers on eBay have an advantage when it comes to the end of the sale. They have lots of alternatives for receiving payment. The main problem is the deadbeat seller—the one who never sends payment in the first place. Once people respond to your e-mails and send payment, it’s likely that things will go smoothly. Yes, checks bounce once in a while. Yes, there is credit card fraud. But the overwhelming majority of transactions go smoothly, and most buyers are courteous and fun to deal with. That’s why sellers keep coming back to put items up for sale. This is when eBay is really fun. This chapter spells out your options for receiving payment. Customer Service eBay grew to become so popular because people who use it are, for the most part, trustworthy. Encounters tend to be positive rather than negative. If transactions onP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:33 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 207 eBay went badly more often than not, the service would not be so popular. As a seller, you need to know how to handle your customers with care in order to preserve that atmosphere of goodwill. Even if you don’t own a brick-and-mortar store and don’t manage a big corporate retail outlet, you need to provide good service to the people who buy from you, just like the big guys. In fact, because you’re a lone seller, you can add a personal touch that big e-commerce retailers can’t match. A pack of coffee included with a coffee maker, a few bags of tea included with a teapot, and a quick and courteous answer to a question can build a good reputation as well as a dependable customer base. Become an E-Mail Expert The best advice I can give to you as far as dealing with prospective bidders and buyers on eBay is to keep in constant e-mail contact, and keep your communications courteous and friendly whenever possible. Respond to inquires quickly, and send out end-of-sale notices as soon as you can after the auction ends. Answer Questions 9 Responding to e-mail inquiries is one of the most practical and important ways in which you can build good customer relations. Try your best to answer questions posed by bidders as quickly as you can—within one day or less if possible. In your auction listings, be sure to include whether you plan to be out of town for a length of time so customers will know that there might be a delay in your responses to their inquiries. Also make an effort to be professional in your communications with customers. What does that mean, exactly? It means spelling correctly, using correct grammar, and using salutations like Hello, Thanks, Best Wishes, or Sincerely. These little details are the substitute for the nuances of tone of voice, gestures and facial expression that you can’t express online. You’ll get even more points if you thank people for writing: Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Sheaffer Scrip Ink container. This is a display container that was probably used in pen shops. However, it does contain ink, and the ink appears to be liquid and useable (I haven’t used it myself, however; I can’t guarantee that you could actually write with it.) There are a couple of minor tears in the box and an ink stain on the bottom; otherwise the box is in excellent condition.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:33 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 208 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Don’t forget to check my other auctions for fountain pens and other writing accessories that you might also enjoy. Best wishes, Greg Holden Some of the best tips for dealing with eBay buyers and sellers in a courteous manner—even when they get mad at you for some reason—can be found on the Web site of eBay’s longtime seller and instructor Uncle Griff (http://www.unclegriff.com). Send the End-of-Sale Notification Many big-time eBay sellers sell multiple items every single day, and they need to use auction software of the sort described in Chapter 6 to send out e-mails in bulk to their winning bidders. If you don’t sell quite so often and you have the time, however, you should take the time to send out personal notifications to your high bidders once they have won what you’re offering. The notification letter can still start out as a template with fields that you customize. You don’t have to re-create it from scratch for every sale. You might create a letter like the following that covers all the main points: the item sold, the shipping costs, the payment method, your address, and a time frame for payment. I am happy to announce that you are the winning bidder for eBay item #122334455, the Shaeffer Scrip ink container. I look forward to a smooth transaction ending in positive feedback for both of us. I accept payment by PayPal, a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order. Please send the following within the next 7 days: Winning bid amount: $29.95 Shipping (Priority Mail): $6.00 TOTAL Amount Due: $35.95 If you want me to ship by Express Mail, tell me and I will calculate a new amount for you. Please include either a copy of this e-mail address with your payment, or write the eBay item number on your check. Send to: Greg Holden 1234 Anywhere Street Chicago, IL 60611 If you pay by personal check, your order will ship after a 14-day clearing period.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:33 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 209 Thank you for your winning bid. I am happy to be working with you toward a smooth transaction. Best wishes, Greg Holden If you want to make some extra points marketing your other sales, you can include a link to your About Me or eBay Stores page or to another Web site. But most buyers just want the facts, and if they’re happy with the merchandise and the speed of the transaction, they’ll search out your other sales eventually. Use eBay’s Checkout Option Rather than having to calculate your shipping and handling totals in your end of the auction e-mail message, you can expedite the transaction by entering the details in the Sell Your Item form when you prepare to put your sale online. That way, your customers can use eBay’s Checkout feature to calculate the charges themselves when the sale ends (see Figure 9-1). Send a Payment Reminder 9 Correspondence with customers gets less pleasant when you have to send a payment reminder to someone who hasn’t yet paid for your auction items. However, that doesn’t mean you need to lose your courteous, professional approach. Being nice when things aren’t going perfectly is a sure-fire way to get positive feedback from grateful customers, in fact. Be businesslike and firm when you send your reminder; keep in mind that payment may have been lost in the mail, the high bidder may have fallen ill or gone out of town, the neighbor’s dog may have eaten the check on the way to the mailbox, or any number of legitimate reasons. Be sure to specify a time frame for receiving your response to the reminder e-mail: Dear Buyer, Last week you won a bottle of Scrip ink on one of my eBay auctions. The payment due date for this auction passed yesterday and I have not received a check or other payment notification. Perhaps the payment has gotten lost in the mail or you haven’t been able to get to this matter yet. I’d appreciate it if you could e-mail me within 24 hours to let me know what’s going on, and whether you want to follow through with the transaction. Otherwise, I would like to re-list the item if you don’t want it anymore. Best wishes, Greg HoldenP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:33 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 210 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 9-1 Help your customers by entering shipping and other charges when you create the sale. Send a Shipping Notice It’s not technically necessary to send out a notice to a buyer from whom you have received payment stating that the item is being shipped out to them—but it helps. Tessa Hebert, a book dealer who has a page full of tips for sellers, sends a similar note. She told me that she also asks the buyer to let her know when the book has been received and is satisfied with the transaction. Such a note encourages the buyer to leave positive feedback for you after the item arrives—and many buyers need to be reminded to leave feedback. The last step is to leave positive feedback for the individual after the transaction is complete. You don’t need to receive feedback from someone in order to leave feedback for that same individual, of course. But if you want to build up your positive feedback rating, a reminder e-mail asking specifically for feedback can help.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:34 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 211 Tessa Hebert runs a mail-order book business called Book Dealers (http://bookdealers.home.mindspring.com) with her partner Bill Fulkerson. Her tips for eBay auction sellers can be found at http://www.mindspring.com/~bookdealers/help.html. Keep It Simple: Checks and Money Orders The simplest kind of payment you can receive from bidders and buyers is in the form of a piece of paper—a check or money order. It’s hard to beat these two options for simplicity and reliability. When you’re just starting out, you should definitely include these methods of payment. Many sellers start out accepting checks and money orders, move up to PayPal or another payment service, and a few move on to accepting some sort of credit card payment. (See “Accept Credit Card Payments” later in this chapter.) But this chapter will focus on the two basic forms of payment first. Accept Good Old Fashioned Paper 9 Cyberspace is great, but even for those of us who have been online for several years, it’s still comforting to receive a paper check in the mail. Oddly, though, when you get to Step 4 of the Sell Your Item form (shown in Figure 9-2), the option for the PayPal, the payment service that’s affiliated with eBay, is checked, but the options to accept checks or money orders are unchecked. You should check them to keep things easy and reliable for yourself and your customers. Cashier’s Checks Cashier’s checks are probably the most secure form of payment that you can receive. As soon as the customer obtains one from a bank, the money is debited from his or her account. You don’t have to wait for such a check to “clear” when it arrives. However, cashier’s checks carry a service charge that ranges from $3 to $5. You can’t blame your customers if they don’t want to send you a cashier’s check. Be sure to provide other options as well. Money Orders Money orders, too, usually carry a service charge when obtained from a bank. The fee can be anywhere between $1 and $3. However, money orders can be obtained less expensively from a wide variety of sources. You’re liable to look around your own neighborhood and find currency exchanges and stores that issue money orders. Some of the options are listed in Table 9-1P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:34 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 212 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 9-2 This area of the Sell Your Item form doesn’t select checks or money orders by default. The last option in Table 9-1—c2it by Citibank—works only if your customers have an account with Citibank already. The flat fee of $10 for international checks can be very cost-effective for larger purchases. Money Order Source Fee for $20 Money Order Fee for $100 Money Order Western Union BidPay.com $2.95 $5 United States Post Office $0.90 $0.90 7-Eleven $0.99 $0.99 Payko $3.99 $8.89 c2it by Citibank $0.40 in U.S. ($10 international) $2 in U.S., ($10 international) TABLE 9-1 Options and Fees for Money OrdersP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:34 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 213 Your customers don’t have to go to the store or bank to obtain a money order. They can obtain one online through Western Union’s BidPay.com service (http://www.bidpay.com), as explained later in this chapter— as well as the services listed in Table 9-1. Personal Checks You might ignore the check box next to Personal Check in Step 4 of the Sell Your Item form because personal checks seem much riskier than cashier’s checks or money orders. It’s true, money orders and cashier’s checks are more secure; but personal checks are also less of a problem than you might think, and you should consider accepting them as well, while setting stringent conditions for your bidders. One of your goals as an online businessperson should be to make life as easy as possible for your customers. If you decide to accept personal checks, you’ll be giving them another option. You might save your buyers a trip to the post office or the 7-Eleven to pick up a money order. Also remember that you can (and actually should) specify in your auction terms that you will wait until a personal check clears before you ship out an item, even if this takes 7 to 10 days. Many sellers go through hundreds of personal checks without having one bounce. Of course, when 9 one does bounce, it can be upsetting, and the experience has caused more than one seller to make auction terms even more restrictive (“I’ll only accept personal checks if you have a positive feedback rating over 100,” for instance). COD (Cash on Delivery) Cash on Delivery sounds sensible in theory. You rely on the delivery person to accept payment on delivering your merchandise. You don’t have to wait for checks to clear, and you don’t have to worry about credit card fees. In practice, there are plenty of downsides to using COD. First of all, there are fees, and they can be hefty. UPS will collect payment but they will charge you $7 for the service, for instance. Suppose the driver attempts to make delivery and the individual isn’t home. Then you have to wait days on end while delivery is attempted. You might have to exchange e-mails with your customer to arrange for alternate delivery; the item might simply be returned to you. You can easily wait weeks to receive your payment. It’s far preferable to get a check or money order up front instead. If you insist on COD, consider using FedEx, which is flexible about delivery and pickup times, and that will overnight the money to you using— surprise, surprise—FedEx.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 214 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business It should seem obvious, but I don’t recommend that you accept cash from your buyers because of the danger that it can be stolen from the mail. I know that some sellers do accept cash, however, especially from overseas customers who find it difficult to deal with payment services. If something happens and payment is lost, it becomes your responsibility to explain to the customer that the money never arrived, which can easily lead to a dispute that can put your all-important reputation in jeopardy. It isn’t that difficult for customers, even those who are overseas, to obtain a money order, and you should insist that they do so. Payment Services If you’ve never been in business before, you can be excused for feeling anxious about dealing directly with customers, even if they’re sending you payment in the form of checks or money orders. Many sellers and buyers alike prefer to have a “middleman” accept the money and pass it along, and sellers don’t mind having the service subtract a fee for doing so. A payment service does just that: it functions as an intermediary between someone who provides goods or services and someone who pays money in exchange for them. For eBay transactions, payment services have two big advantages: ■ Security Payment is no longer a matter of trust when you use a payment service. The buyer knows you’re going to get the money, rather than having to trust a shipper. The seller knows the payment is going to be received— and quickly, without having to wait for the mail to deliver it. (PayPal also offers fraud protection for its members.) ■ Credit card purchases Payment services like PayPal enable customers to pay you with a credit card even if you don’t have a merchant account with a bank, a Point of Sale (POS) terminal, or payment gateway software. The payment service deducts the purchase price from the customer’s credit card account and transfers it to you. You become an instant credit card merchant! A few years ago, eBay acquired a payment service called Billpoint, which was a highly regarded and reliable service. However, because of the popularity of PayPal, eBay decided to discontinue Billpoint and, in October 2002, acquired PayPal for a reported $1.5 billion in stock. PayPal is by far the most popular payment service option used by eBay sellers, though some competing services offer attractive alternatives as well.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:35 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 215 Accept Payment with PayPal PayPal, the payment service that is now officially part of eBay (see Figure 9-3), has gained credibility simply because it is so widely used (it’s reported to have more than 17 million customers). Simply put, many sellers expect you to give them the option to use PayPal to accept payment; if you don’t, there’s a chance they might not bid on what you have to offer (though if you’re offering something they passionately desire, they’ll have no problem sending you a check or money order for it). Before PayPal became a part of the eBay empire, sellers and buyers had to register and set up an account in order to use the service. That was the source of one customer complaint regarding PayPal—in order to use PayPal to pay a seller, buyers were forced to set up an account with the service. Now that PayPal is part of eBay, you don’t have to set up a special account to start accepting payment. You only have to leave the PayPal box checked on the Sell Your Item form. (However, you will have to register with PayPal once the first payment comes in.) Registration is free, however. 9 FIGURE 9-3 PayPal sellers can accept credit payments for auction sales on an e-commerce Web site.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 216 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business When you register, you’ll need to choose one of two accounts: a Personal Account or Premier/Business Account. As a seller, you definitely want the Premier/Business Account because Personal Accounts may not receive credit card payments. In order to receive credit card payments, sellers are charged either a Merchant Rate or a Standard Rate. In order to qualify for the lower merchant rates, one of the following must apply: ■ You have been a PayPal member in good standing for the past 90 days, and received an average of $1,000 in payments per month over the previous 90 days. ■ You have received a competitive offer from an established merchant account provider such as First Data Merchant Services or Metavante Corporation. ■ You have proven yourself to be a long-standing eBay seller who deals in high volume, and you include your eBay User ID and password on your Merchant Rate application. To keep yourself qualified for the Merchant Rate fees, you need to maintain a volume of $1,000 a month with PayPal and keep your account in good standing (that is, you have no unresolved chargebacks due to customers using credit cards fraudulently). The difference between the Standard Rate and Merchant Rate fees at this writing is shown in Table 9-2. You can subtract a sizeable 1.5% from either the Merchant or Standard Rate if you qualify for Preferred Rate. To qualify for the 1.5% Preferred Rate discount, sign up for and use a PayPal ATM/Debit Card and advertise PayPal as your only online payment option—not Western Union Bill Pay, Yahoo! PayDirect, or other payment services. As a Premier/Business Account customer, you can gain access to your PayPal funds with PayPal’s ATM/Debit card. Currency in Which You Are Paid Standard Rate Merchant Rate U.S. dollars 2.9% + $0.30 2.2% + $0.30 Canadian dollars 3.4% + C $0.55 2.7% + C $0.55 Euros 3.4% + €0.35 2.7% + €0.35 Pounds sterling 3.4% + £0.20 2.7% + £0.20 Yen 3.4% + ¥40 2.7% + ¥40 TABLE 9-2 Premier/Business Account Rate FeesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 217 Keep in mind that PayPal’s fees change from time to time and may be different by the time you read this. You can get the current fees at http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/fees-receiving-outside. One particular nice thing about PayPal is that it accepts credit cards such as Discover and American Express that can be hard to accept with a conventional merchant account. Normally, even if you obtain a conventional merchant account through a bank or other financial institution, you have to make arrangements through those two credit card companies themselves to be one of their merchants. You can configure your PayPal account so your money is transferred directly to your checking account; by check (there’s a $1.50 charge for each check); or held in your PayPal account. In addition, you can print out invoices to send to your customers if you use QuickBooks; PayPal has been integrated into the QuickBooks accounting system (see Chapter 17). PayPal also protects both buyers and sellers in a number of ways: ■ It checks a buyer’s address against the credit card billing address. It confirms the buyer’s address and, if you ship to that confirmed address in the U.S., you 9 are not liable for chargebacks. ■ Your account is insured up to $100,000 against unauthorized withdrawals. ■ PayPal verifies credit card holders by having them submit the CVV2 identification numbers printed on the back of most credit cards; the numbers force the buyer to have the actual credit card rather than using a stolen credit card number. ■ Premier/Business Account holders can deny payment from any buyers who do not have confirmed addresses. ■ The usual $10 fee that PayPal charges for any chargeback is waived if you fulfill the requirements in the Seller Protection Policy. The Seller Protection Policy protects you against non-shipments, unauthorized credit card use, and chargebacks if you meet several requirements. You must have your address and checking account confirmed by PalPal with your bank, you must ship only to confirmed addresses, you must keep proof of shipping that can be tracked online, and you must ship to U.S. buyers. Seller protection and address verification doesn’t apply to international transactions—which is a sore spot with many eBay sellers who want to receive payments from overseas.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:36 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 218 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business Some eBay users love PayPal for its convenience. Others dislike it for various reasons: the main one is cost. PayPal’s fees aren’t inconsiderable. Other services specifically advertise themselves as having fees that are lower than PayPal’s. Another is the way PayPal handles disputes and user accounts. In fact, in September 2002 a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 100,000 PayPal customers, alleging that the company responds slowly or not at all to disputes and complaints, thus freezing accounts for months at a time. You can read a San Francisco Chronicle article about the suit at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ chronicle/archive/2002/09/07/BU232114.DTL&type=business. Western Union BidPay One of the auction sellers I interviewed for this book, a gentleman with a feedback rating of more than 2400 whose User ID is decoray, specifies in his auction terms that he will not use PayPal at all. Rather, he accepts checks, money orders, and Western Union’s money order payment service, BidPay (http://www.bidpay.com). BidPay is simple: Sellers don’t have to register with BidPay to receive money orders using the service. Registered sellers can set up accounts where they can review records of past orders and have their address verified by BidPay. However, buyers do need to register with BidPay so they can send you money orders. They use the BidPay.com Web site to choose a credit or debit card in order to make payment. They add any shipping fees you have specified to the amount of the money order. They also pay transaction fees as described in Table 9-3. BidPay uses the U.S. Postal Service to send you its money orders. Once you get a confirmation e-mail from BidPay saying that the money order has been mailed to you, you have the option to either ship the merchandise immediately or wait until the money order actually arrives. Money orders are shipped to sellers by first-class mail, and the shipping cost is included in the BidPay fees. However, buyers who are in a hurry to receive their merchandise can send you a money order by Priority Mail for an extra $6, and by Express Mail for $15. Face Value of Money Order Transaction Fee $30 or less $2.95 $30.01 to $100.00 $5.00 $100.01 to $700.00 $5.00 + 2.25% of the face value of the money order TABLE 9-3 BidPay Transaction FeesP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:37 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 219 If you become a registered BidPay seller, you can add the BidPay logo to your auction listings as shown here. BidPay limits its transactions to $700 or less, including shipping fees. 9 Moneybookers.com Moneybookers.com, a London, England–based payment service, enables buyers and sellers in a variety of countries to send payments to one another. Both buyer and seller need to have accounts established with Moneybookers. It’s free to establish an account, and free for the buyer to deposit money in his or her account from a bank account. To send you money, the seller pays 1% of the transaction fee or a minimum of €0.50. However, it’s worth noting that while it doesn’t cost anything to have money transferred into your Moneybookser.com account, it does cost money to withdraw it to a bank or other account. You’ll pay a flat fee of €3.50 (the U.S. equivalent at this writing is $3.81) to withdraw a check from your account. Accept Credit Card Payments If you already run an antique store or other brick-and-mortar business, you probably know about merchant accounts and credit card payments. Credit card payments are ideally suited to transactions on the Web: you enter your card number and personal information in a Web page form, click a few buttons, and you’re done.P:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:37 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen 220 How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business FIGURE 9-4 Moneybookers is especially good for international transactions. Setting yourself up to accept credit card payments for your auction listings takes a little time and effort, but it isn’t terribly difficult. If you’re planning to do business “offline” as well as online, you may well want to establish a conventional credit card account with a financial institution. If you only plan to sell on eBay and you want to give your high bidders and buyers another way to send you payment, look to a service like PayPal to do most of the work for you. Either way, you add a new level of convenience for your shoppers. Being able to add credit cards to the list of payment options in your auctions lets people know that you’re truly serious about selling online and providing good customer service, too. The Conventional Way: Merchant Accounts A merchant account is a special account that a commercial operation (a merchant, in other words) sets up with a financial institution. The merchant account enables a business to receive credit card payments from its customers. Your financial institutionP:010CompHowTo8948-9ch09.vpThursday, May 08, 2003 8:03:37 PM
    • Color profile: Generic CMYK printer profile HowTo8 (8) / How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business / Holden / 222948-9 / Chapter 9Composite Default screen CHAPTER 9: Accept Payments and Serve Your Customers 221 processes the order, working with the credit card network to debit the customer’s account and credit yours. Along the way, the financial institution charges fees for the processing. Traditional Bank-Based Merchant Accounts The traditional way to obtain a merchant account is through a bank or other financial institution. You apply to the bank and provide documents that show that you are a legitimate businessperson. You also pay an application fee, which can amount to $300 or more. The bank’s officers review your request for several weeks, after which time they hopefully grant you approval. You then purchase an input device that lets you send your customers’ credit card numbers to the credit card network. This might be a Point of Sale terminal that lets you do “card swipes,” plus a printer that can print out the receipts your customers sign. You can find inexpensive versions of such terminals on eBay for less than $50 (see Figure 9-5). 9 FIGURE 9-5 You need hardware like this or software to enter your customers’ credit